Friday 20 February 2009

Supersized solar

Northern Territory News
Thursday 19/2/2009 Page: 2

solar switch onTHE largest solar energy system ever mounted on a building in the southern hemisphere has been switched on in the Red Centre. The rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) installation is expected to generate 40 and 80% of the energy requirements of the Crowne Plaza hotel in Alice Springs. Speaking from the desert town yesterday, hotel general manager Adain Glass said the system would help the Crowne Plaza reduce its annual carbon footprint by 420 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

The solar energy system would generate enough electricity to serve 60 family homes. "The water and energy savings that will result from our plans are staggering," said Mr Glass. "We are located in one of the hottest parts of the country.

"This means on one hand that we are a large consumer of energy. but on the other, we have access to a ready renewable resource to significantly offset that consumption." More than 1000 panels cover almost every northern-facing surface of the building and Lloyd Berger. from hotel owner Investnorth, said it "set the green benchmark" for Australia's business sector and hotel industry.

The solar system is accompanied by a $50,000 in-house energy efficiency program, including a system that regulates the temperature of rooms. Data from the $3.3 million solar panels will also be fed into an in-house television channel, allowing guests to see how much energy the hotel is saving at any given time.

Industry to get $9bn carbon cushion

Sydney Morning Herald
Thursday 19/2/2009 Page: 7

THE Federal Government will spend $9 billion cushioning industry against the impact of carbon trading over the next three years. A wide range of heavy polluting industries, from aluminium refining to tissue paper production, may be eligible for compensation if they can complete audits by May 1. Guidelines showing how businesses will have to account for their greenhouse gas emissions were released yesterday by the Minister for Climate Change, Penny Wong.

"We are very mindful of the potential impact the scheme may have on industry, which is why we have already set aside over $9 billion to assist a range of businesses and industries under the scheme out to 2012," Senator Wong said. The burst of carbon assessments are likely to be a bonanza for the carbon audit sector, as hundreds of businesses seek to get their carbon footprint precisely measured over the next three months. Each company's carbon account must be checked by one of the several auditors vetted by the Government.

The guidelines point to 33 production processes the Government has already identified as being eligible for subsidy, including steel and iron making, lead and zinc smelting, and cardboard and newsprint production. Legal sanctions, including up to a year's imprisonment, can apply to anyone who knowingly submits false or misleading data. Mining giant Rio Tinto is likely to be the biggest recipient of free carbon permits under the scheme, based on figures in the Government's White Paper.

The steel and cement industries, along with aluminium smelters, are likely to be eligible to have 90% of their carbon emissions covered by free permits. The alumina refining, liquid natural gas and petrol refining industries are likely to get 60% free coverage. The money to provide compensation for eligible polluters will be raised by auctioning carbon permits, each valued as equivalent to a tonne of carbon dioxide gas.

The cash will then be redistributed to businesses which are disadvantaged because they are unable to reduce emissions, or because they are exposed to competition from countries without carbon restrictions. The Business Council of Australia was still examining the guidelines late yesterday, but a spokesman for the group said it was broadly in favour of the Government's approach, and was awaiting further detail on how the trade-exposed, emissions-intensive industries would be treated.

Companies will have three months to open their carbon efficiency books. Senator Wong still needs to produce a draft bill and the legislation must pass both houses of Parliament. The Government remains committed to bringing in a scheme by July next year but to do so it must persuade either the Opposition or the Greens to support it.

"If all permits were auctioned, as the Greens and the majority of economists advocate, the system would be more simple and more efficient," said the Greens Senator, Christine Milne. "Compensation should be limited to offsetting the loss of competitiveness that trade exposed polluters would face, and should be geared towards achieving emissions reductions instead of entrenching current pollution levels."

Olympian task

Adelaide Advertiser
Thursday 19/2/2009 Page: 19

THE jobs of generations of South Australians hinge on the expansion of the Olympic Dam mine and how its environmental impact statement is received by the public, politicians and the board of mining giant BHP Billiton. The EIS will be delivered in May against a background of conflicting forces.

Driving the project forward with urgency will be the world's thirst for uranium, to generate power without worsening climate change, as well as revived demand for copper as the global economy recovers. Working against it will be the global financial crisis, which has made finding capital harder and sent mineral prices plummeting. There also will be major questions about sourcing water, power and people in South Australia.

The scale of the project and its longevity - estimated at 100 years - mean BHP will be cautious in getting the fundamental strategy right before it begins. BHP chief executive Marius Kloppers earlier this month said the project was essentially entering a holding pattern while the EIS and approvals process took place. "The timing of approvals certainly is reasonably uncertain and consistent with that we are throttling back the burn rate on the project to reflect the completion of a phase of study and the waiting period on the EIS," he said.

This has resulted in about 200 people being taken off the expansion project study team and Graeme Hunt, BHP Billiton's Adelaide based international head of uranium, deciding to step down and his position dispensed with. Asked whether BHP was still as optimistic about the future of Olympic Dam as it was when the mine was bought from WMC, Mr Kloppers was sanguine.

"If I reflect back on the uranium market, probably the rate of reactor build is probably a little slower than I would have thought," he said. "But at the same time, I probably think that the awareness of greenhouse emissions and so on probably gives more upside going forward." Olympic Dam has more uranium than the combined quantity in the next 20 biggest known deposits in the world, or nearly 40% of the world's uranium.

While a few sceptics clutch at obscure science to deny global warming, most of the world has moved on and policy makers are looking at how to cut greenhouse emissions. "I have never seen a credible scenario for reducing emissions that did not include climate change," United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change executive secretary Yvo de Boer said. Financial analyst Deloitte has calculated that electricity generation accounts for about 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Deloitte compared the carbon footprint of nuclear generation, including indirect emissions from the life cycle of the process, against other methods. Coal produced at least 46 times more greenhouse gas than nuclear and gas-fired power systems at least 20 times more. Climate change concerns, concerns about the security of energy supplies, along with the proven ability of nuclear energy stations to generate cost-effective, base-load electricity had led to 350 new reactors on various drawing boards, Deloitte found.

Australian Uranium Association executive director Michael Angwin said long-term demand for uranium globally would grow by 50 to 100% by 2030. The forecasts in the Deloitte Outlook for the Uranium Industry report, which was commissioned by the association, would still hold true despite global economic downturn. The forecasts were for Australia's uranium industry to increase Australia's GDP by up to $17.4 billion by 2030.

South Australian Chamber of Mines and Energy chief executive Jason Kuchel said, with Olympic Dam and other projects, SA was poised to take full advantage of the growing demand for uranium. Australia was better placed than many countries and SA better placed than other states. While the new Liberal Government in Western Australia had overturned a ban on uranium mining, it did not have the regulatory system in place.

'°To run a nuclear energy plant, you need to have very secure sources of uranium and you can't afford to run out at any given point in time by buying from a country that's not geopolitically stable," he said. "That positions SA very well in terms of stability as a supplier." Mineral Resources Development Minister Paul Holloway has said he was "delighted by the renewed interest in uranium exploration and the key role SA can now play in supplying the growing world demand for low emission fuels".

SA's support for the mining industry, particularly its exploration program PACE, was paying dividends on top of Olympic Dam. He noted that the Four Mile project, located near Beverley - the only operating uranium mine in SA other than Olympic Dam - was "one of the most significant uranium discoveries anywhere in the world in the past 25 years". "This proposed mine underlines SA's importance as a major source of the world's uranium resource," he said.

Greens MLC Mark Parnell says the Olympic Dam expansion is "one of the State's biggest economic proposals, the biggest infrastructure project in our history, the biggest hole in the ground in the world". Accordingly he wants it to receive full scrutiny. While the Greens had always opposed uranium mining, the party wanted to ensure any development was sustainable. "This is overwhelmingly a copper and gold mine. If this project is to get ahead we need it to be world-class in relation to sustainability and jobs.

"This will blow our legislative greenhouse targets out of the water if (the State Government) does not insist on BHP being carbon neutral," he said. Both the Government and BHP want the project to go ahead as quickly as possible but also are being cautious. The Government has not factored the extra revenues that will flow from the expansion into its Budget.

Nor has BHP included any extra revenue in its five-year forecasts. But with the world's biggest known uranium deposit - mingled with the fourth biggest copper and gold deposits - there can surely be no doubt it will proceed. "I think the important thing is that BHP is still moving ahead with the project," Mr Kuchel said.

Solar giant

Adelaide Advertiser
Thursday 19/2/2009 Page: 8

THE largest solar energy system mounted on a building in the southern hemisphere has been switched on in the red heart of Australia. The solar photovoltaic installation is expected to generate 40 to 80% of the energy needed by the Crowne Plaza hotel in Alice Springs.

Thursday 19 February 2009

$300m project to harness power of the sea - State rides energy wave

Herald Sun
Wednesday 18/2/2009 Page: 21

VICTORIA is in the running for a $300 million wave power project, with predictions 20% of the state's electricity could be generated by the ocean. The State Government is in talks with Western Australia's Carnegie Corporation to develop a wave energy plant. The talks come as the Federal Government prepares to announce a $435 million renewable energy development plan this week.

The wave system uses under-sea buoys to harness energy by pumping water through turbines onshore. It can also be used to drive desalination plants. The company wants to build a 50 MW demonstration plant - enough to power about 30,000 homes. It is eyeing seabed sites near the power grid off the state's west coast and Gippsland. Carnegie Corporation managing director Mike Ottaviano said the state's wave power resource was huge.

About a fifth of the state's energy needs could be economically supplied by the resource using the new-generation technology, Mr Ottaviano said. "It's extremely consistent and reliable. It's a genuine baseload resource." He said the state's manufacturing industry, including auto and wind energy equipment manufacturers, would be engaged to build wave energy equipment if the plant came to Victoria.

The State Government is believed to be interested in the project in the hope the state would become the nation's wave energy hub. Federal Energy Minister Martin Ferguson, who will unveil the $435 million Renewable Energy Development Program on Friday, said the Government wanted to support cutting-edge renewable technology.

"The Government's 20% renewable energy target means by 2020, a fifth of Australia's energy will come from renewable sources," he said. "This is why we are supporting work to develop Australian wind, wave, solar, and geothermal technologies." Victorian Infrastructure Minister Peter Batchelor said the State Government wanted to encourage renewable energy projects.

"The Brumby Government is investing in the development of large-scale renewable energy demonstration projects through our Energy Technology Innovation Strategy, and wave energy is eligible for funding under this initiative," he said. Former prime minister John Howard promoted the Carnegie Corporation's wave energy technology ahead of the past election.

Left and Right agree carbon tax is better

Wednesday 18/2/2009 Page: 12

Emissions trading, much like Kevin Rudd, has not lived up to its promise, contends Richard Denniss

LIKE Kevin Rudd before the 2007 federal election, emissions trading used to hold much promise for those interested in tackling climate change. In proposing a 5% emissions reduction by 2020, however, the Prime Minister, as well as his carbon pollution reduction scheme, has failed to deliver on that promise. Although the CPRS is widely discussed, it is not so widely understood. This lack of understanding has been an advantage for the Rudd Government since it was elected, but as the disappointment with the scheme begins to grow, so too does the awareness about how flawed the proposal really is.

Did you know, for example, that once the CPRS comes in, individual efforts to reduce energy use will have absolutely no effect on the level of Australia's emissions? If a household spent thousands of dollars putting solar panels on their roof and insulating their ceiling, and rode their bikes everywhere, it would not reduce Australia's emissions by a single kilogram. Here's why.

Each year the federal Government will issue a fixed number of carbon pollution permits. Most will be given to the big polluters and some will be auctioned. It will be illegal for big polluters to generate more emissions than the number of tonnes allowed by the permits they hold.

The second step is where the trading comes in. If a big polluter wants to increase the amount of pollution it releases, it can do so, but only if it can buy a permit from one of the other big polluters. While the total number of permits issued by the Government will mandate a decline of 5% in the Australia-wide level of pollution by 2020, there will be no need for any individual polluter to reduce emissions. In fact, a polluter can go on increasing its emissions as long as it can find another polluter willing to sell it permits. This is where the problems begin.

Under the proposed scheme, if individuals, communities or state governments try to do their bit for the environment, all they will achieve is the freeing up of permits for the big polluters to increase their emissions. Fewer emissions from an individual mean more emissions from an aluminium smelter. Fewer emissions from one state simply mean more emissions from another state.

Consider this example. If a family installs a solar hot water system on their roof, they will need to purchase less electricity. The coal-fired power stations that supply that power will burn a bit less coal and, as a result, will produce fewer emissions. Now that the power station has lowered its emissions, it will need fewer permits, freeing up spare permits that it can then sell to the aluminium industry or any other large polluter. The carbon pollution reduction scheme can be more accurately described as the carbon pollution reallocation scheme.

Of course, in addition to the trivially small target and a scheme design that prevents individuals, communities or even state governments from playing a role in reducing emissions below the target, there is a range of other problems. The compensation to the polluters is not just an enormous transfer of taxpayers' money to the big emitters; it defeats the whole principle of "polluter pays".

While an emissions trading scheme is supposed to rely on the market to set the price, the Rudd Government has announced that the price will be capped at $40 a tonne. If the political will changes and a subsequent government wants to significantly reduce emissions, it will have to spend billions more dollars on buying back the permits that have been given away to the big polluters.

Many Australians have waited a long time for a government to do something about climate change and no doubt some of them would be reluctant to see the CPRS fail for that reason. However, most of these people are unlikely to understand that the 5% emissions reduction target is not a step in the right direction but a legislative barrier to reducing emissions any further. The CPRS locks us into failure, in that it will prevent emissions falling below the timid targets proposed by the Rudd Government.

So, where to from here? A simple way to get the ball rolling without locking in the worst features of the CPRS is to introduce a carbon levy of $25 a tonne. This is the same price the Rudd Government expects to flow from its CPRS and it has already done the work figuring out how to provide compensation. An important benefit of such an approach is that we don't need to start from scratch.

The administrative capacity required to collect a carbon levy is consistent with that required to introduce the CPRS. That is, both systems require the monitoring of emission levels, the determination of liability and the reconciliation of who has paid their carbon bills. The other benefits of a carbon levy are its simplicity, its compatibility with simple measures such as investment in household energy efficiency, and the fact we don't have to set our targets until international agreement is reached in Copenhagen. Unlike the CPRS, a carbon levy would not discourage individual action.

The CPRS is looking more and more like a hotted up second-hand car. It sounded good in the advertisement, had all the fancy bits added on and looked really shiny and ready to go. Unfortunately, the closer you look at it, the less reliable it gets. It might not be as fancy, but an old-fashioned carbon levy would be a much more reliable way of getting from A to B, especially in these troubled economic times.

Richard Denniss is executive director of the Australia Institute.

Price plunge hits carbon trade plan

Wednesday 18/2/2009 Page: 8

THE collapse in the international price of carbon is threatening the Federal Government's ability to pay for compensation packages in the emissions trading scheme without drawing on the budget. Compensation for households, trade-exposed industries and high-polluting coalfired electricity generators was expected to be drawn from auctioning carbon credits, which the Government estimated would initially generate $12 billion a year.

But the assumed price of carbon - $25 a tonne - is now under threat because the Government's proposal allows polluting businesses to offset an unlimited proportion of emissions by buying international credits. With the international carbon price hovering around $15 a tonne, carbon trading analysts told The Age the local $25 start-up price was "seriously in doubt".

They said it raised the prospect of the Government dipping into the budget pay for the household compensation package targeted at low to middle-income earners. A spokeswoman for Climate Change Minister Penny Wong last night said the Government was committed to paying the full household assistance package promised last year, regardless of the carbon price.

The emissions trading blueprint released in December says household compensation will cost $3.9 billion in 2010-11, rising to an estimated $6 billion in 2011-12. It "estimates" the effect of the overall compensation package will be neutral to the budget. Tim Hanlin, managing director of the Australian Climate Exchange, said the Australian price would closely mirror the international price, which is generated from UNapproved clean energy projects in the developing world.

Global carbon market analyst Point Carbon said in its latest newsletter that an international price of little more than half the assumed Australian price of $25 would mean most of the Government's economic forecasts were incorrect. "There is doubt as to whether such a low carbon price will be sufficient to drive investments in low-carbon technology" it said.

Climate Institute Australia policy director Erwin Jackson said the Government needed to consider initially limiting the amount of international credits that would be accepted. Chris Halliwell, a senior broker at TFS Green, said the international price sunk when industry production slowed and companies had sold longstored permits to raise money during the financial crisis.

This has led to the international permit being cheaper for Australian companies to buy than the alternative Australian permits if the auction starting price is at the Treasury estimate of $25 a tonne," he said. The $25 price is the result of Treasury modelling from October, part of a climate change policy aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions 5% below 2000 levels by 2020.

Wednesday 18 February 2009

More energy efficiency policies would be smarter than more power stations

Adelaide Advertiser
Tuesday 17/2/2009 Page: 18

hot air balloonA CONSENSUS has emerged that the largescale blackouts in Adelaide and Melbourne in recent weeks were the result of excessive demand being placed on the electricity grid by airconditioning. About one in every two Australian homes currently has at least one airconditioner. They are all being turned on at the same time whenever we experience a heatwave. The grid just can't cope with these peak demands.

Unfortunately, most of the solutions proposed have focussed on the supply side of the equation, including building more power stations (coal-fired no doubt), just so we can meet the surging demand from airconditioning. While this is good news for the construction and mining sectors, it is a cruelly ironic blow to our environment. To me it seems perverse to be suggesting the release of even more climate-warming CO2 into the atmosphere whenever we experience a heatwave.

After the recent Melbourne blackouts, Energy Networks Australia proposed spending about $50 billion of our tax dollars to build extra capacity in the electricity grid. They failed to mention the fact that this extra capacity would get used maybe only half a dozen times a year. I'm no economist but committing billions to new infrastructure that sits idle for more than 95% of its life time doesn't sound like a very sensible use of capital. To my mind a much smarter approach would be to take a close look at the demand side of this peak-demand problem.

In a warming world I think now is the right time to seriously start addressing the many questions related to the use and abuse of energy in general, and airconditioning in particular. The supply side of the electricity sector seems to dominate in this country (that is, let's build more coal-fired power stations). But I think the mining companies and energy utilities shouldn't be the only voices heard on such an important issue.

After all, they're the dinosaurs who led us into this climate change problem in the first place. So why would we be letting them decide our future energy policies? No, energy conservation is a much smarter place to be looking and it doesn't cost billions of dollars. In fact, it saves money and it is effective immediately. The Federal Government has just included a fairly ambitious budget for home insulation in its economic stimulus package.

That's a sensible demand-side policy, although it remains to be seen whether it dampens peak electricity demand on a scale that would avert power blackouts Nevertheless, more energy efficiency policies would be a much smarter move than building more coal-fired power stations. For goodness sake, the Australian economy has barely begun the process of improving energy efficiency for the simple reason that energy is underpriced in this country. Compared to other places, such as Japan and Europe, we still have plenty of low-hanging fruit on the energy efficiency tree just waiting to be picked.

Associate Professor Richard de Dear is with the faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning at the Sydney University.

Solar surge for new city

Northern Territory News
Tuesday 17/2/2009 Page: 7

THE Northern Territory Environment Centre wants the new city of Weddell to be a solar city. Co-ordinator Stuart Blanch said the NT Government should apply the same incentives being used in Alice Springs. where residents are given financial incentives to install solar cells, and produce their own power to sell back to the grid. "Couldn't we require every house to have photovoltaic cells or solar hot water heaters?" he said.

Evian and Volvic to become 'plastic neutral' in UK
London, 12 February:

Danone Waters plans to make Evian and Volvic bottled water 'plastics-neutral' in the UK, through the use of recycled plastic. The scheme will save the company £250,000 ($356,000) in the first year of the 'closed-loop' plastic recycling initiative, which Danone plans to reinvest in environmental projects.

Recycling haulier Greenstar will collect polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles from recycling bins in the UK, then ship the plastic to an Artenius TurkPET factory in Dijon, France, where it will be processed and mixed with virgin PET, and used to make Evian and Volvic bottles for the UK market. Because the containers carrying the recycled PET would have otherwise travelled empty, Danone says the initiative will also reduce its carbon footprint. The company will use 5,000 tonnes of recycled PET in the first year of the initiative. It hopes to become 'plastics neutral' by 2011, using around 11,000 tonnes of the material.

Nick Krzyzaniak, general manager of Danone in the UK and Ireland, said the initiative "will also help Evian and Volvic towards our ultimate aim of becoming truly carbon neutral by 2011. The closed loop means that for every Evian and Volvic bottle sold here in the UK, one bottle will be recycled and the plastic reused. That's quite a step forward for our industry and the environment."

Richard Swannell, director of organics and retail at the Waste & Resources Action Programme, set up to encourage recycling in the UK, welcomed Danone's actions: "Incorporating 'rPET' into bottles has a clear environmental benefit in reducing the carbon footprint of bottle manufacture and using fewer natural resources." The scheme may be expanded beyond the UK in future, a Danone spokesman told Environmental Finance. He added it could help to "prime the pump" for further use of recycled PET by the UK's drinks sector.

CDP to poll 3,700 firms on climate risks
London, 12 February:

The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) has called on 3,700 companies to submit data on their climate change risks, as a survey reveals that three-quarters of the investment managers behind the project factor such information into their investment decisions. This is the seventh time the CDP has asked companies to respond to its questionnaire, which is going out to 900 more companies this year than in 2008.

CDP chief operating officer Paul Simpson said the questionnaire is to be sent for the first time to Russia's 50 top companies, and the 50 leading firms in central and eastern Europe. In Japan, 500 companies will receive the request, compared with 150 last year. "We are trying to match the CDP request to indexes that investors think are important," he told Environmental Finance.

More investors than ever are backing the CDP - some 475 institutional investors, with combined assets under management in excess of $55 trillion. Among the 90 additional signatories this year were BBVA, National Bank of Canada, Hyundai Marine and Fire, Impax Group and Nordea Investment Management. This compares with 385, managing $57 trillion last year, and just 35, with $4.5 trillion in assets, in the CDP's first report in 2003. In a survey of 80 CDP signatories, three-quarters said they factor climate change information into their investment decisions and asset allocations. Some 80% of these consider climate change to be important relative to other issues impacting their portfolio.

The survey found that investors predominantly use the CDP data to engage with corporations, but a handful of investors also said that systematically incorporating CDP data into financial analysis is in progress and a key goal. "We have seen an increase in investor interest in climate change and that's reflected in the number of new signatories. More investors are grappling with the data and it's that grappling that's the key - they are trying to work out how they should be systematically integrating it," Simpson said.

While acknowledging pockets of expertise in the industry, Simpson noted that many analysts were not clued up about climate risks and need more training to understand the issues. The survey, compiled by investment consultancy firm Mercer, will be published in March.

Renewables provisions survive US stimulus compromise
New York, 12 February:

After a night of intense negotiations, the US House of Representatives and Senate have reached a compromise on a $789 billion economic stimulus package that includes several provisions favourable to the renewable energy sector. The House and Senate are expected to vote on the compromise proposal on Friday after members agreed to scale back the bill by removing billions in aid for states struggling with budget deficits and funding for other initiatives. President Barack Obama is expected to sign it Monday.

The final agreement - which was not available as Environmental Finance went to press - apparently includes a key measure featured in the House version of the bill that would allow renewable energy producers to seek government grants for their projects, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) in Washington.

"The renewable energy provisions in the final bill will stimulate economic and job growth in the wind industry," said Greg Wetstone, AWEA's senior director for governmental affairs. "More than that, this bill is a critical down payment on long-term policies needed to meet the President's ambitious renewable energy goals, enhance America's energy security, grow our economy and reduce global warming pollution." The compromise proposal also removed up to $50 billion in loan guarantees for the nuclear industry, according to environmental group Friends of the Earth in Washington.

"The bailout in question would have thrilled nuclear industry lobbyists but done virtually nothing to stimulate the economy," said the group's president Brent Blackwelder. "Taxpayers shouldn't have to foot the bill for the nuclear industry's failures. Congressional leaders did the right thing and prevented waste by removing this bailout."

Tuesday 17 February 2009

Climate change even worse

West Australian
Monday 16/2/2009 Page: 13

Dire warnings about the coming devastation wrought by global warming were not dire enough, according to a lead author of the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. It has been just over a year since the panel published its a report warning of rising sea levels, expanding deserts, more intense storms and the extinction of up to 30% of plant and animal species.

But recent climate studies suggest that report significantly underestimates the potential severity of global warming over the next 100 years, a senior member of the panel said. "We now have data showing that from 2000 to 2007, greenhouse gas emissions increased far more rapidly than we expected," said Chris Field, who was a coordinating lead author of the report.

This is "primarily because developing countries like China and India saw a huge upsurge in electric power generation, almost all of it based on coal," Professor Field said on Saturday ahead of a presentation to the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Without decisive action to slow global warming, higher temperatures could ignite tropical forests and thaw the Arctic tundra, potentially releasing billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide that had been stored for thousands of years. That could raise temperatures even more and create "a vicious cycle that could spiral out of control by the end of the century". "We don't want to cross a critical threshold where this massive release of carbon starts to run on autopilot," Professor Field, a professor of biology and of environmental earth system science at Stanford University, said.

The amount of carbon that could be released was staggering. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution an estimated 350 billions tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) had been released through the burning of fossil fuels. The new estimate of the amount of carbon stored in the Arctic's permafrost soils was about 1000 billion tonnes. And the Arctic was warming faster than any other part of the globe.

Several recent climate models had estimated that the loss of tropical rainforests to big bushfires, deforestation and other causes could increase the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere from 10 to 100 parts per million by the end of the century. It now was about 380 parts per million. "Tropical forests are essentially inflammable," Professor Field said. "You couldn't get a fire to burn there if you tried. But if they dry out just a little bit, the result can be very large and destructive wildfires." Recent studies also showed that global warming was reducing the ocean's ability to store carbon by altering Southern Ocean wind patterns.

Professor Field is co-chair of the group assessing the impacts of climate change on social, economic and natural systems for the IPCC fifth assessment due in 2014. The fourth assessment in 2007 presented at a "very conservative range of climate outcomes" but the next report will "include futures with a lot more warming", Professor Field said.

Ally pulls plug on Rudd's energy target

Summaries - Australian Financial Review
Monday 16/2/2009 Page: 3

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's climate change credentials have been delivered another blow after the Clean Energy Council has claimed the emissions trading scheme would not deliver Labor's election promise of 20% of electricity coming from emissions-free sources by 2020. Business groups, including the Business Council of Australia, have argued the scheme would just raise electricity costs without delivering reductions to emissions. Modellers Intelligent Energy Systems were commissioned by the CEC to assess the scheme and they reported the front loading nature of funding would mean wind energy would garner most of the support to the detriment of emerging technologies geothermal, tidal and solar thermal.

Backed by its own report by McLennan Magasanik Associates, Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said the government would reach its target. Treasurer Wayne Swan has ordered a new parliamentary inquiry to assess how effective an emissions trading scheme would be in reducing greenhouse pollution, a move Minerals Council of Australia Mitch Hooke said appeared to 'fly in the face' of the governments own ETS timetable.

Our power is greener: - ActewAGL Feed-in tariff `generous'

Canberra Times
Monday 16/2/2009 Page: 5

Buying electricity from ActewAGL's Greenchoice program would be more cost-effective and more efficient in protecting the environment than the ACT Government's feed-in scheme, ActewAGL's retail head Ivan Slavich said yesterday. The scheme, which Mr Slavich and the ACT Government say is the most generous in Australia, will pay almost four times the retail price of electricity to households and small businesses which produce electricity from renewable sources such as photovoltaic modules.

Mr Slavich said producing electricity from renewable sources was clearly more cost-effective from large-scale projects, such as wind and solar farms. Under the ACT Government's scheme, it would cost about $360 million to install photovoltaic modules on 10,000 premises to produce only 3% of the ACT's annual electricity need ... about the equivalent of the peak in recent hot weather.

Under the feed-in scheme, suppliers of electricity will be paid up to 50.05c a kW hour from March 1 to June 30, next year. Premium payments will be guaranteed for 20 years with the cost passed to all ACT consumers. This will include the cost of installing new meters to suppliers under the scheme. Under ActewAGL's Greenchoice, which has about 9000 subscribers, the extra cost of renewable electricity is 6.5c a kW hour, or about 50% of the retail price.

Mr Slavich said houses using 100% Greenchoice were more green than a house with a five kW photovoltaic capacity. He said this was about the capacity needed to supply the annual needs of average ACT houses. The installation cost of these modules would be about $60,000. The average ACT household electricity bill was about $1200. On average, people with photovoltaic panels would receive $4000 for the electricity they generated.

Energy Minister Simon Corbell said yesterday the feed-in scheme would produce only modest amounts of electricity but would encourage a greater level of economic activity at the local level. Based on projections of the scheme's take-up, the average annual household electricity bill would increase by $9 to $12. Larger consumers would bear a greater proportion of the increase. "The Government believes very strongly we need to protect low income earners as we make this transition," Mr Corbel] said.

The most obvious way of giving protection was to increase the energy subsidy. But the Government must consider what it could afford. The director of the ACT Council of Social Service, Roslyn Dundas, said 15% of ACT residents received an energy concession and small fluctuations of energy and food prices impacted disproportionately on these households. "This could push them over the edge," she said. On March 3, the ACT Government will conduct an industry consultation on an large-scale solar energy plant, capable of supplying electricity for 10,000 homes.

US energy chief flags carbon tax - Climate change fight may require `price on emissions

Saturday 14/2/2009 Page: 18

US ENERGY Secretary Steven Chu has floated the idea of a carbon emissions tax to fight global warming. During the US presidential campaign, the notion was kept largely on the back burner as candidates were reluctant to promote the idea of costlier energy at a time when petrol prices were soaring. But since the Obama Administration took office in January, Congress has been working on a system for swapping greenhouse gas emissions quotas similar to the one used in the European Union.

In an interview with The New York Times, Dr Chu, a Nobel laureate in physics, said "alternatives could emerge, including a tax on carbon emissions". A new study has suggested that climate change could severely affect the world's fisheries, with key species migrating towards the poles. "The impact of climate change on marine biodiversity and fisheries is going to be huge," said its lead author, William Cheung, of the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia in Britain.

Dr Cheung's team used a computer model, based on knowledge of 1066 species of fish, to predict what might happen by 2050 under three scenarios for global warming. Warmer water would lead to "large-scale redistribution" of these species, with most of them moving towards the poles, shifting on average by more than 40 kilometres per decade, they said. Arctic Norway would benefit from an increased catch, but in sub-polar regions, the tropics and semi-enclosed seas, "climate change might lead to numerous local extinctions", hitting developing countries most of all, the paper warned.

Dr Chu said that solving the world's energy and environment problems would require Nobel level breakthroughs in three areas: electric batteries, solar energy and the development of new crops that can be turned into fuel. Solar technology, he said, would have to get five times better than it was today, and scientists would need to find new types of plants that required little energy to grow and could be converted to clean and cheap alternatives to fossil fuels.

Having once said that coal was "a nightmare" in the way it was currently used, Dr Chu said the US must also lead the world in finding a way to burn the fuel cleanly, because other countries with big coal reserves, such as India and China, would not turn away fro in it.

But he added that such developments were not impossible. At the turn of the last century, he noted, scientists such as Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch made Nobel-winning discoveries that led to the development of cheap nitrogen fertilisers, saving Europe from starvation. "I think science and technology can generate much better choice. It has, consistently, over hundreds and hundreds of years," Dr Chu said.

He said that while President Barack Obama and congressional Democratic leaders had endorsed a so-called cap-and-trade system to control global warming pollutants, there were alternatives that could emerge, including a tax on carbon emissions or a modified version of cap-and-trade.

Dr Chu said reaching agreement on legislation to combat climate change would be difficult in the current economic climate because any scheme to regulate greenhouse gas emissions would probably cause energy prices to rise and drive manufacturing jobs to countries where energy was cheaper. "The concern about cap-and-trade in today's economic climate," he said, "is that a lot of money might flow to developing countries in a way that might not be completely politically sellable." But he said he supported putting a price on carbon emissions to begin to address climate change.

One major decision facing his department is what to do about Yucca Mountain, a site 160 kilometres from Las Vegas chosen by Congress for burial of high-level radioactive waste. Mr Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada have opposed the project. Dr Chu said the political difficulties in trying to obtain a licence for the Yucca Mountain site should serve as a guide in searching for other nuclear waste repositories in the future.

Monday 16 February 2009

Australia needs to move now on insulation and solar hot water

Clean Energy Council
13 February 2009

NATIONAL: Australia needs to get on with making households more energy efficient by accelerating deployment of simple but efficient technologies like solar hot water and insulation backed in the Rudd government's economic stimulus package. Clean Energy Council Chief Executive Matthew Warren said "delays in getting these key aspects of the package through only stalls fundamental energy efficiency improvements that will help save money, jobs, the economy and the environment".

He said "this is creating confusion and uncertainty for the thousands of Australians wanting to take advantage of proposed incentives not to mention the thousands of Australians employed to manufacture and deploy these technologies." The energy efficiency component of the government's proposed stimulus package will help Australians cut their energy bills by at least 15-20 percent.

Warren added that "investment in smart energy solutions for homes and businesses can only serve to cushion Australia from any difficult financial times ahead by saving money and jobs across the nation". "It's common sense really - energy efficiency measures are all about being smarter with what we have and reducing demand overall. This will have the added benefit of keeping investment here and protecting local jobs" explained Warren.

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.

Power prices tipped to fall

Herald Sun
Friday 13/2/2009 Page: 86

Cooling towersWHOLESALE electricity prices will fall sharply when the national Renewable Energy Target is introduced next year, three separate reports conducted for industry groups show. The target will require electricity retailers to source 20% of their power from renewable energy by 2020. An independent study by consultants CRA International last year for the National Generators Forum concluded electricity pool prices would be reduced by 5% if "low cost, short run marginal cost renewables are forced into the generation mix".

Two other studies, by ROAM Consulting and ACIL Tasman, have also concluded that more renewable energy generation will put downward pressure on electricity prices. But these findings are at odds with modelling released by the Department of Climate Change this week that indicates wholesale power prices would rise by an average 0.5% from 2010 to 2020.

Modelling done by energy experts McLennan Magasanik Associates for the Federal Government concluded the expanded RET scheme would have "a modest impact" on wholesale power prices. "Retail prices, however, are expected to increase by around 3% in the period to 2020 and 3.7% in the period from 2021 to 2030," the MMA study says.

A spokeswoman for the Business Council of Australia said yesterday the group had not had sufficient time to analyse the MMA findings. "We will consider the MMA report as part of the process of responding to the government's exposure draft legislation for RET and its effects on energy intensive industries," BCA policy director Maria Tarrant told BusinessDaily.

But in an earlier report on climate change policy, the BCA included the CRA analysis which showed a forecast reduction in electricity prices following an increase in power from renewable energy. Using the CRA modelling, the cost to electricity retailers of RET in 2015 would be $910 million, according to an energy industry analyst, who could not be named. "However, the reduction in whole sale electricity prices of including more renewable energy would be $10.9 billion," he said.

"The conclusion is that the impost on retailers due to RET should be overwhelmed by the reduction in wholesale pool prices, in this case by a factor of 10 times." NGF chief executive John Boshier would not comment on the finding in the CRA report his group commissioned other than to say the renewable target would have "a profound influence on electricity supply in Australia and was unlikely to provide immediate least-cost emission abatement".

The Department of Climate Change was unable to comment yesterday on the conflicting findings of the several reports into the likely effects of its RET scheme. The deadline for submissions to the draft RET legislation, which had been set for tomorrow, has now been extended to February 20.

'Questing spirits need money too Investment in research will reap great dividends, Robert Niven writes

Canberra Times
Friday 13/2/2009 Page: 15

February! The sweltering heat, the tragedy of bushfires and Australian Research Council grant applications. As I write, Australia's academics are now working feverishly, writing proposals to try to win research funding for their hopes and dreams. Very few succeed: success rates are down to 20%, and those who vin generally get less than half what they need.

Yet time and again, in these and other pages, expert commentators have pointed out the excellence of Australia's scientific research. Many capable projects are turned down and lost forever. Easily 60% to 80% cent of applications could be funded without any loss of quality.

The entire Australian Research Council budget, in all schemes, totals $600 million, with about Half in the main Discovery scheme. In contrast, the European Union is spending 50.5 billion euro ($A99 billion) in a new program over 2007-13, in addition to generous national schemes. The US National Science Foundation's annual budget is $US6 billion, and it is not the only funding source.

In the face of such severity, you can imagine our scientists' views on the Australian Government's $42 billion spending package, which follows $10 billion last year, $6 billion for the car industry and on and on. Leaving aside the question of the morality of such largesse, a second question follows: how will the package increase Australia's national prosperity? How will it help shift Australia from a low-tech, resource-digging, raw-materials-exporting economy to a modern, high-tech, people intensive society whose skills and capabilities are in demand around the world? Where is the support for new technologies and new industries?
How about:
  • A commercial-scale solar energy plant with desalination plant for Adelaide or Perth, using Australia's world-leading solar technology?
  • A major initiative in householder distributed electricity generation, accompanied by the development of innovative billing systems?
  • A satellite-launching capability and aerospace industry? Most industrialised countries - and now Iran - have this; we don't.
  • Development of thorium nuclear reactors, which avoid the emissions problems of uranium reactors and for which Australia can corner the world's supply of thorium?
  • Re-engineering Australia's urban environment for a low-carbon future, with development of higher building standards and urban planning principles?
  • A real-tine automated satellite bushfire warning system integrated with Internet, broadcast media and mobile communications? A once-in-a-generation opportunity to define Australia's hopes and aspirations, and we get more housing, rail boomgates and pink batts! Have they gone mad? The package clearly demonstrates the complete disconnect between our political class and its understanding of how national prosperity is generated.
Much has been said of the previous government's squandering of the boom, induced in part by its hatred of the halls of academe. Will the present Government continue the same course? If the Government wanted to boost Australian Research Council funding, it could be done easily, in this budget cycle. It could also speed it tip: the decisions are all made by June but not announced until November for funding in January. Since most applications are reviewed by overseas assessors, this long delay gives our competitors the opportunity to develop our ideas.

Why not two funding rounds a year? If you give scientists more money, how will they spend it? In part it will go on expensive equipment, increasing our ability to do new things. Yes, some will be imported, but a lot will be locally manufactured, increasing the demand for high-tech manufacturing from specialist enterprises which service universities and high-tech mechanical, electronics and IT personnel inside and outside universities.

A large part of research funding also goes on people, increasing the knowledge and expertise of Australia's human resources, and fostering its courage and resolve t o embark on radical new ideas. Scientific research funding is national prosperity-building funding. It is astonishing that it is not being considered in the Government's package.

Dr Robert Niven is a senior lecturer in engineering at the University of New South Wales, ADFA.

Call for green stimulus

Friday 13/2/2009 Page: 21

GOVERNMENTS across the world must commit to hundreds of billions of dollars in green investments within months in a combined attack on the economic crisis and global warming, leading economists say. An alliance of experts say in a report that about $400 billion should be channelled into supporting low-carbon technologies such as home insulation and renewable energy. Given the urgency of both economic and climate crises, it wants the green investment made quickly and to total 20% of the $2 trillion likely to be spent globally as fiscal stimulus.

British economist Nicholas Stern, author of the 2006 Stern Review on the economics of cli - Irate change and chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change, said: "With billions about to be spent by governments on energy, buildings and transport, it is vital that these public investments do not lock us for many more decades into a costly and unsustainable high-carbon economy".

The report, written by many of the team that prepared the Stern Review, says politicians should not delay plans to cut greenhouse emissions because of the global slowdown. Instead, climate change action could form a central part of packages to stimulate economies. Dr Stern said: "Rich industrialised countries need to show leadership this year by committing to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050."

Review for emissions plan

Friday 13/2/2009 Page: 18

TREASURER Wayne Swan has ordered another review of the Federal Government's emissions trading scheme, prompting the Opposition to accuse it of abandoning its climate change policy. Mr Swan asked the Economics Committee to "inquire into the choice of emissions trading as the central policy to reduce Australia's carbon pollution". The Government said it remained committed to introducing emissions trading legislation. It is expected the Government will use the Labor-dominated committee to argue for the scheme while it is trying to get its contentious legislation through a potentially hostile Senate.

One Labor source told The Age it "would not be unhelpful" to receive public submissions supporting the Government's position while it is likely to face a frosty reception from the Opposition and crossbenchers. A spokeswoman for Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said it was normal procedure to refer major economic policies to parliamentary committees. "(Opposition Leader) Malcolm Turnbull might not want to talk about the carbon pollution reduction scheme, but we are keen for it to receive as much . . . consideration as possible," spokeswoman Ilsa Colson said.

Mr Turnbull said the review was the first step to abandoning the emissions trading scheme, adding it put into question the Government's 2010 start date for the scheme. The Opposition is waiting for its own economic analysis before announcing whether it will support the Government's emissions trading plan. Written by David Pearce, executive director of the Centre for International Economics, the analysis will be released later this month.

Mr Pearce yesterday released a separate report into climate change mitigation, written with economist Warwick McKibbin, that argues for a clear price on carbon to be developed through a global trading scheme or global tax.