Friday 27 February 2009

Teaming up and powering down

Wednesday 25/2/2009 Page: 17

working togetherSO FAR, the carbon trading debate has been cast as a battle between greedy businesses on one side and rabid greenies on the other. That's not how it works in Castlemaine. There, under the Maine's Power scheme, the four major employers in the region have quietly teamed up with the local sustainability group and CSIRO to slash their ecological footprints. The employers are committed to cutting their greenhouse emissions by 30% by 2010 (from 2006 levels) and working towards zero net emissions by 2020.

Together, the big four - Don KRC, Flowserve, Victoria Carpets and Mount Alexander Hospital - consume about half the shire's electricity and natural gas. "They also employ about 2000 people and without them, our economy would collapse," says Dean Bridgfoot, coordinator at Mount Alexander Sustainability Group. MASG founded the project 18 months ago, launching it in February 2008. "We went to (the employers) and said, 'You're crucial to the town and we want you to stay here. We're also concerned about climate change and we want to take action," Bridgfoot says.

He stressed their common goals and the businesses were receptive. "It was important that they could see that we were going to listen, be respectful and take their position seriously." The project is part of CSIRO's Sustainable Communities Initiative, which promotes regional action through partnerships between business, government and local groups. But Maine's Power isn't just about greening the town. With higher electricity prices on the way, the project also aims to secure the region's electricity supply and the future of local industry.

The Mount Alexander Shire relies on manufacturing for much of its employment, but it's a long way from the power generators. Nearly one-fifth of its power is lost in transmission from the Latrobe Valley. The project began with a study of energy use and needs at each site. Then, CSIRO's experts analysed technology options for the facilities, from solar panels and wind turbines to onsite gas-powered cogeneration (which makes both heat and electricity).

Soon, the scientists will hand over the final report and it will be time for action. The four employers must decide what investment they'll make. "What's good for the environment is usually good for business," says Bill Youl, manager at Don KRC. "We've approached it that way." The smallgoods manufacturer is the biggest employer in the shire, making up to 1000 tonnes of hams, salamis, sausages and bacon every week.

"It's an industry that has environmental impacts," Youl admits, "but it also does a lot for the local community, in terms of employment. We're keen to make sure we have a sustainable business." Don KRC is planning to expand its Castlemaine operations after closing factories in Altona and Spearwood in Western Australia. The company will double production but anticipates that its water use will barely increase. Powerwise, CSIRO's research suggests that gas-fired cogeneration could satisfy the firms electricity and heat needs, while slicing its CO2, emissions.

CSIRO's expertise has been crucial to the scheme's success so far. "We've had some really eminent people looking through our factory," foul says. "It helps you be confident about decisions when you know you've got the best in the world giving you advice." For Victoria Carpets, the research has shown that cogeneration would be the cheapest strategy for cutting emissions. The regional spinning mill produces wool and wool-blend yarns to supply its Dandenong factory. Mill manager Tony eminent people looking through our factory," foul says.

"It helps you be confident about decisions when you know you've got the best in the world giving you advice." For Victoria Carpets, the research has shown that cogeneration would be the cheapest strategy for cutting emissions. The regional spinning mill produces wool and wool-blend yarns to supply its Dandenong factory. Mill manager Tony Breslin enthuses about the cooperative process but admits the company has recently become hesitant about its next step.

New carpet is a deferrable expense and since the financial downturn, sales have fallen. That will make any eco investment harder to slake. "These last four to five months have created a fair degree of uncertainty," Breslin says. The Mount Alexander Shire council will be hoping they decide to go ahead with it. The Maine's Power project is a key plank of the council's ambitious green goal - in 2006 it committed to cutting the regions carbon footprint by 30% by 2010 (from 2000 levels) and to plan for carbon neutrality by 2020.

"It's a big ship to turn around," says new Mayor Philip Schier. They're challenging targets, but there is strong local support. The sustainability group boasts more than 800 members. "It's an exciting community to be involved with, particularly because the major industries are willing to take it on," Schier says. Partly, the council's policy is about self-preservation - by pursuing early climate change action, the community will adapt ahead of the pack. But it also offers a model for other regions and levels of government.

"It's got to be a local, regional, national and global approach," Schier says. "Unless you get in there and start tackling it, you are only forever going to be saying it's somebody else's problem." At Don KRC, cutting emissions isn't just a sacrifice for the greater good. "It sends the right messages and it makes monetary sense as well," says Youl. "In the future, companies will see sustainability as one of their key business planks and not something you bolt on the side to keep the community happy. It's really about what's good for your business."

Mount Alexander Sustainability Group:

AGL warns on climate plan delay

Sydney Morning Herald
Thursday 26/2/2009 Page: 27

AGL ENERGY warned yesterday that a protracted debate over climate change policy would stall investment in new electricity generation and hurt carbon intensive generators' chances of refinancing. The managing director, Michael Fraser, said that if the issue was not finalised "sooner rather than later'', investors would not back new gas generation projects or efforts to clean up existing coal plants.

He said the Federal Government's proposed carbon pollution reduction scheme was well thought out and the $3.9 billion in compensation for coal generators was adequate. But amid a growing political stoush in Canberra over the scheme, further delays would cloud business decisions. If there is uncertainty around what the scheme is, when it is going to be introduced, what the compensation arrangements are going to be - all those things are going to create difficulties around the refinancing and new investment," he told the Herald.

The comments came as AGL reported a 5.3% rise in underlying net profit to $192.5 million in the six months to December, after it sold $2.5 billion in non-core assets and made various gas acquisitions. Any delay in energy investment will threaten growth in the dwindling electricity supply, which is expected to come mainly from gas-fired power plants.

Analysts say AGL's gas and renewable investments will benefit from carbon trading but it also has a 32.5% stake in one of the country's most polluting brown-coal power stations, Victoria's Loy Yang A. But in contrast to industry warnings that compensation was inadequate to protect generators' credit ratings, AGL said it was confident of refinancing Loy Yang's debt, which is not due for more than a year. AGL shares fell 1.2%, or 16c, to $13.25.

WIndfarms blowing a real gale

Adelaide Advertiser
Tuesday 24/2/2009 Page: 33

wind turbine towerTHE South Australian windfarm industry has exceeded all expectations, becoming one of the largest in the world. Rapid growth is expected to result in it supplying about 30% of the state's power by 2015, while providing significant environmental benefits. Electricity Supply Industry Planning Council chief executive David Swift said the SA windfarm industry was likely to reach a capacity of 1500-2000 MWs by 2015.

This follows rapid growth since the first windfarm, Starfish Hill, was built near Cape Jervis in 2003. Since then, the number of windfarms has grown to nine, with 360 wind turbines and a combined capacity of 739 MWs. A better wind resource, ideal hilly ridges, a good planning regime and low connection costs to the grid are among the reasons for SA's windfarm success. About $2 billion is expected to have been invested in the SA windfarm industry by the end of this year, providing almost 20% of the state's power.

Mr Swift said that by then, its capacity would reach 856 MWs, providing the second highest percentage of windpower generation in the world after only Denmark. "We think its capacity may double in SA in the next six or seven years," Mr Swift said. While the windfarm industry is providing significant economic benefits to SA, the environmental benefits are expected to become increasingly obvious in future.

"In relative terms, we also have a lower carbon footprint than other mainland states, which will be an advantage in the future, with carbon emissions trading," Mr Swift said. "In the past, states with cheap coal have had a significant competitive advantage. "SA emits less carbon because we have more wind and gas energy generation, which will neutralise the lower costs of power generation in states with low-cost coal." Chief executive of the world's fifth-largest wind farm company Suzlon Energy, Dan Hansen, said it had built about half the windfarm capacity in SA.

Mr Hansen said the size of the SA windfarm industry would depend on interstate cooperation and political goodwill. "The system already has world-leading wind penetration, but after 1500 MWs, it will start to have problems with interconnectors to New South Wales and Victoria which are not big enough to take it. "They will need upgrading, as do transmission lines, but if that happens, SA could go to 3000 MWs without any trouble."

Call to draft legislation capping carbon gases

Canberra Times
Thursday 26/2/2009 Page: 13

President Barack Obama urged Congress yesterday to draft legislation setting market-based caps on the emissions of carbon gases in a landmark move in the United States to combat global warming. "To truly transform our economy, protect our security, and save our planet from the ravages of climate change, we need to ultimately make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy," Mr Obama told lawmakers in his maiden speech to Congress.

"So I ask this Congress to send me legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America." The United States is the world's largest emitter of carbon gases, blamed for global warming, yet the previous administration of president George W. Bush walked away from the 1997 Kyoto Protocol aimed at battling climate change.

A carbon-trading system sets a cap on the an-count of pollutants companies can emit and then forces heavy polluters to buy credits from companies that pollute less - creating financial incentives to fight global warming. Such measures to curb gas emissions were fiercely rebuffed by the Bush administration, which argued that it would be too costly for companies to implement.

A day after a new report highlighted that the effect of even slight temperature increases may have been underestimated, Mr Obama said energy was a critical issue for the future of the world's top energy consumer. He pledged it would be one of three key areas - along with health care and education - that he would focus on in his first budget to be laid before US lawmakers in the coming weeks.

The President vowed to pump $US15 billion ($A23 billion) a year into developing technologies like wind energy and solar energy, vowing to double the country's supply of renewable energy in the next three years.

Mr Obama also praised China for making the largest effort in history to turn its economy energy efficient, and warned that the United States - which invented solar technology - was falling behind its competitors in Germany and Japan. "New plug-in hybrids roll of our assembly lines, but they will run on batteries made in Korea," he said. 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 gasoline prices were soaring.

Obama adds fuel to carbon debate

Thursday 26/2/2009 Page: 4

INTERNATIONAL momentum towards an agreement on climate change was boosted yesterday when US President Barack Obama urged Congress to draft legislation for a cap-and-trade emissions trading system. Australian observers said the speech had "breathed life" into international talks for a climate change deal, even though White House officials said the US legislation might not pass Congress before negotiations in Copenhagen later this year.

The Climate Institute Australia's chief executive, John Connor, said: "Obama breathed new life into a global approach and he rang the bell on the way clean energy can be part of the economic stimulus." The Rudd Government has been under attack for moving too quickly with its emissions trading plans, while the rest of the world has second thoughts because of the global economic crisis.

Recent comments by new US Energy Secretary Steven Clue floating the idea of a carbon tax added to concerns that Australia could be isolated. Mr Obama dismissed fears that the economic climate would force him to scale back ambitious plans for energy reforms, and drew a direct link between long-term US economic interests and the development of clean energy. The President's speech came as the Rudd Government dismissed a plan being developed by the federal Coalition to advocate a higher greenhouse reduction target by paying farmers for storing carbon in the soil and revegetating their land.

Climate Change Minister Penny Wong and Agriculture Minister Tony Burke told the National Farmers Federation and other farm groups yesterday they supported the idea of allowing farmers to claim credit for carbon that could be stored in soil, but that more work needed to be done on the technologies and the measurement of the carbon they abated. Mr Burke also suggested Malcolm Turnbull was making exaggerated claims about the quantities of carbon that could be abated through tree planting on farms. He said calculations in a report cited by the Opposition Leader involved planting trees over vast tracts of prime agricultural land.

"Mr Turnbull referred to some extraordinary tree planting, which he believed was possible, and cited this report predicting that nine million hectares of trees could be planted," Mr Burke said. "Now, when you look at the maps, the problem that Mr Turnbull didn't acknowledge ... is the areas where you would be planting trees take over prime agricultural land. To get to the nine million figure in the report that he cited, you would be losing farmland in prime areas like Tamworth, Glen Innes, Cooma, Wagga, right through to the West Australian wheat belt.

"To reach the figures that Mr Turnbull is talking about, we are actually going down a path in his world where we will take our prime agricultural land, stop growing crops and start planting trees on it. It's a world where, realistically, you would sequester a whole lot of carbon, but there'd be a lot less to eat." Mr Burke said the Government would concentrate tree planting on "marginal" land.

He said the reason Mr Turnbull's plan "looks too good to be true, is because it is too good to be true". NFF president David Crombie said he welcomed the Government's plan to do more research into the ways farmers could help emission reductions. "We understand that agriculture doesn't fit into the emissions trading system right now," Mr Crombie said.

Partner, ANZ move on BBP power stations

West Australian
Wednesday 25/2/2009 Page: 54

The future of two WA power stations formerly owned by Babcock and Brown Power has been resolved, with partner ERM Power temporarily taking full control of its Kwinana joint venture and ANZ's infrastructure arm picking up BBP's share of its other plant in Neerabup, 30km north of Perth. The troubled investment bank's offshoot announced in November that the ANZ had offered $130 million to buy its interests in both power stations.

At the time BBP was struggling under a mountain of debt and looking to offload assets to survive. However, ERM - the biggest private power company in Australia - had a pre-emptive right to buy BBP's share in each venture. In a complicated set of transactions, The West Australian understands that ERM has exercised its right to buy BBP's 30% in the gas-fired NewGen Kwinana power station, with the aim of on-selling that share to an unknown partner. ERM will retain its 70% stake after the deal is done, expected to be in March.

The Kwinana plant had teething problems in its commissioning phase, including a turbine failing and not having enough test gas because of the Varanus Island explosion, but the company still managed to hit its target start-up date of December 1 last year. Farther north, ANZ's infrastructure group has bought BBP's 50% share in the Neerabup operation, leaving ERM, as before, with the remaining half.

An ANZ spokesman confirmed yesterday it had bought BBP's interest on behalf of its Energy Infrastructure Trust. EIT's portfolio includes steam and gas power stations, gas pipelines, biodiesel fuel plants and windfarms. NewGen Neerabup is a 320MW open-cycle, gasfired power station. It is due for completion late this year, when it is projected to supply just under 10% of the electricity needs of the South-West grid.

BBW loses $88.4m

Canberra Times
Wednesday 25/2/2009 Page: 15

Babcock and Brown Wind Partners Group says separation from its troubled parent will return it to modest profitability despite a first-half net loss of $88.4 million. The loss in the six months to December 31 followed a net loss of $4.46 million in the previous corresponding period.

Included in the bottom line result was $44.5 million in costs associated with the termination of management agreements with parent Babcock and Brown. BBW booked a $7.6 million loss from its Portuguese wind-farm assets, which were sold off during the first half. Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation were $192.3 million in the first half, 54% higher than in the previous period. BB shares closed steady at 90c.

Making hay while the sun shines

Tuesday 24/2/2009 Page: 6

IF YOU always thought there was big money in solar energy, you were closer to the truth than you might have imagined. Prototypes of a new generation of flexible solar cell have been produced using equipment built to print Australia's polymer bank notes. The breakthrough, conceived by the CSIRO, has the potential to enable mass production of solar sheeting at a far lower cost than traditional silicon-based cells. A trial of the technology was conducted successfully last week at the facilities of Securency International at Craigieburn, where the nation's currency is printed.

Securency International director of technical services Gary Power said: "It just so happens that the technology required to print solar cells is not a million miles away from the technology required to print polymer bank notes." The new generation of solar cells is still relatively inefficient at converting the sun's rays into usable power. A CSIRO project leader, Dr Gerry Wilson, put the figure at 3%. Normal photovoltaic solar cells grown on silicon are typically 25% efficient.

Dr Wilson was confident this would improve, citing a goal of 7% efficiency by next year. The chief benefit of the flexible sheets of solar cells was the ability to mass produce them, he said. Polymer sheets of solar cells could be placed on the roof of a domestic house or clad the walls of a commercial building to make them self-sustainable. The use of printing systems for polymer bank notes for solar cell technology is not as odd as it may sound. Both technologies emerged from CSIRO research and both involve using exotic forms of ink applied in layers.

Gas key to carbon emissions

Adelaide Advertiser
Tuesday 24/2/2009 Page: 40

Santos chief executive David Knox says gas-powered base load energy will be essential for reducing Australia's carbon footprint. Speaking at the opening of the Australian Society of Exploration Geophysicists (ASEG) conference in Adelaide yesterday, Mr Knox said natural gas had the potential to lower the carbon emissions of Australia's power generation by up to 70%.

He said South Australia had the country's cleanest base load power generation, sourcing 56.1% of its energy from gas. "South Australia is already showing the rest of the country how it can reduce its carbon footprint," he said. Mr Knox said Australia also had potential to supply clean base load power to Asian markets, exporting from the Gladstone project in Queensland.

Harnessing big source of energy

Adelaide Advertiser
Tuesday 24/2/2009 Page: 40

Panax Geothermal has announced enough energy in its Limestone Coast geothermal project in South Australia to power more than 500,000 homes with electricity. The hot dry rocks project has 11,000 petajoules of measured resource, more than five times larger than those announced by Australian geothermal companies.

Managing director Bertus de Graaf said the measured resource, in theory, was large enough to operate a 1000MW power station for 30 years, or sufficient energy to power more than 500,000 homes." target="_blank">Panax geothermal is scheduled to start drilling its first production well, Salamander 1, about June this year. Its Limestone Coast geothermal project near Mt Gambier covers 3127sq km, with the National Electricity Market Management Company power grid traversing the entire project area.

RPM a tower of strength and growing

Adelaide Advertiser
Tuesday 24/2/2009 Page: 33

THE windfarm industry is providing benefits and jobs throughout South Australia. It includes steady employment growth at RPG (SA) Pty Ltd, Australia's largest integrated wind tower manufacturer. Based at Kilburn in Adelaide, RPG has maintained strong employee growth in the past two years. RPG business manager Alan Church said it made more than 100 wind towers for the fast-growing industry last year.

"We've supplied towers to every major windfarm project in SA since the first one, Starfish Hill near Cape Jervis, in 2003," he said. "Half of our people here are making wind towers and that has enabled us to maintain steady growth, along with our other work," he said. "I've got a desk full of inquiries for various wind farms and we're hopeful that all the gazetted projects will go ahead and provide further work."

Mr Church said RPG was looking at further growth as the windfarm sector continued to expand. "We pride ourselves on our work with various other high-end infrastructure projects such as the Port River Rail Bridge," Mr Church said. Mr Church said each wind tower involved considerable work as they were 87 metres long and weighed up to 150 tonnes.

Thursday 26 February 2009

Greens push solar tariff

Sydney Morning Herald
Monday 23/2/2009 Page: 6

THE Greens intend to step up their campaign for the state seat of Marrickville held by the Deputy Premier and Minister for Climate Change, Carmel Tebbutt, as the Government grapples with a decision that could increase use of solar energy. A State Government panel is considering the establishment of gross or net "feed-in" tariffs to be added to the electricity bills of all households to cover payments made to people who generate surplus solar energy on their rooftops and sell it to power companies.

Households generating solar energy would receive a higher payment under a gross tariff for installing solar panels. Under a net tariff, they would receive a payment only for the electricity sold to the network. Muriel Watt and Robert Passev, researchers at the Australian Photovoltaic Association, examined data collected by the Centre for Energy and Environmental Markets at the University of New South Wales and found that a gross feed-in tariff would cost all households 3 or 4 cents a week.

A coalition of interests from the Property Council to the solar industry, environmentalists and unionists want the Government to commit to a gross tariff. The Federal Government decided the matter should be determined by the states. So far Victoria and Queensland have opted for a net tariff, while the ACT and Western Australia have chosen a gross tariff. The Government has made it clear that any feed-in tariff scheme shall not impact disproportionately on all energy consumers," Ms Tebbutt said.

Indirect subsidies through an electricity tariff are given as the reason that Germany and Spain have been able to increase use of solar energy. In Germany the gross tariff costs about 24 cents a week a household and has created 42,000 jobs and 1500 businesses. The State Government has set up a taskforce from the departments of the Environment, Energy and the Treasury to study the matter and make a recommendation. The panel is expected to suggest a net tariff.

The costs of implementing a gross tariff are insignificant compared to the benefits to NSW of kick-starting a solar industry," the NSW Greens MP John Kaye said. The Greens polled over 40% of the vote in Marrickville after preferences in the last state election, putting them in a strong position to win the seat and the nearby seat of Balmain at the next election.

New bid to revive hydrogen buses

West Australian
Monday 23/2/2009 Page: 4

WA was failing to lead the way in clean, green public transport systems by not using emission-free hydrogen fuel-cell buses, green groups and a sustainable transport think-tank said yesterday. A three-year, $13 million trial of the buses ended in September 2007 and they were taken off the road.

The Department for Planning and Infrastructure said last year that the trial showed the technical feasibility and public acceptance of hydrogen fuel-cell buses but commercial viability and getting low greenhouse emission sources of hydrogen were big hurdles. Conservation Council WA director Piers Verstegen said yesterday that with oil running out it was in WA's interests to be a leader in clean transport technology such as hydrogen, which could be produced from renewable energy sources such as wind and solar energy.

Sustainable Transport Coalition of WA spokesman Glen Head said the technology, which was being used more in cities such as London and Vancouver, had promise. Mr Head said though the fuel-cells needed to be imported, cost issues would never be resolved until more governments invested in the technology. Transport Minister Simon O'Brien said hydrogen bus technology still had some way to go before it was a viable alternative. The $2 million to $3 million cost per bus was far more than $500,000 for a bus of the existing fleet.

Carbon scheme to slug farmers

Monday 23/2/2009 Page: 3

INCLUDING agriculture in the Federal Government's carbon emissions trading scheme will cost farmers and the economy billions of dollars in revenue and cut production, landmark research shows. Australian agricultural production will be cut by $2.4 billion a year by 2020, and by $10.9 billion a year by 2030, under the proposed carbon pollution reduction scheme (CPRS), according to research conducted for the Australian Farm Institute. The livestock industry, particularly beef, will be the worst affected.

The study, done by the Centre for International Economics (CIE), says the cost of emissions permits will account for up to one-quarter of farm gate prices by 2030, and most of this cost will be borne by farmers. CIE executive director David Pearce said that, as most agricultural products were exported, farmers would not be able to pass on the emissions costs because prices are determined by international markets. "This will be a big hit for Australian agriculture," he said.

Farmers may be able to pass on some of the higher costs domestically, but local consumers may stop buying the product because it was too expensive. Agriculture produces 16% of Australia's greenhouse emissions, with methane from livestock the biggest contributor. The study models three scenarios that assume the Government's target of a 60% cut in emissions by 2050. The results are a change of what they would have been otherwise - a "business as usual" scenario without the CPRS in place.

The scenarios are: agriculture is not covered by the CPRS, but is affected by the overall economic impacts; early entry - entrance to the CPRS in 2013 with free permits capped at 90% of 2005 emissions, and bought on-market by 2025; and conservative - agriculture included in 2016 with 100% free permits, with no free permits by 2026. The study does not include any action farmers could take to minimise the impact of emissions, nor does it include the effects of climate change itself on agriculture.

Mr Pearce said emissions costs would be significant. By 2030, they will make up to 25% of the farm gate price for wool, 22% for beef, 16.5% for sheep meat, 10% for dairy, 5.5% for pork, 3.5% for poultry and 1-2% for grains. Despite rises in commodity prices, farmers will be worse off because they can't pass on all the costs. Production will thus decline - 12% for beef, 8% for wool and 7% for sheep meat. The farmers' falling incomes and lower production mean that, by 2030, the gross value of production (GVP) of beef will fall by $6.6 billion, or 28%.

For other sectors, the projections are GVP falls of $1.1 billion, or 27.5%, for wool; $1 billion, or 21%, for sheep meat; $800 million, or 8%, for milk; and $500 million, or 2.3%, for wheat. Even without being fully covered under the ETS, agriculture will still be affected by higher input costs such as electricity, fuel and chemicals, and less consumer demand due to lower incomes.

If agriculture is included, the costs of the ETS for the whole economy are reduced. Carbon prices are projected to be $92.60 per tonne of carbon dioxide in 2030 if agriculture is included, and $107 per tonne if it is not. Mr Pearce said farmers would have ways of adjusting to offset the costs, although these were not modelled. "If farmers have to change their practices, it will be a significant adjustment. It is not clear how the economics of mitigation measures would work." he said. AFI executive director Mick Keogh said the report provided critical information for decision-makers.

Powerlines started $10m fire

West Australian
Saturday 21/2/2009 Page: 7

Western Power has announced plans to double its spending on bushfire mitigation after it was revealed yesterday that clashing powerlines caused bushfires that threatened homes and caused $10 million damage to State Government pine plantations. The State's energy watchdog has called on Western Power to defend its maintenance program after it found a split power-pole top and slipped bolt caused powerlines to sag and clash, sparking blazes which razed more than 2000ha of pine plantations near Yanchep on January 16.

Office of Energy Safety director Ken Bowron cited questions over Western Power's practices surrounding clashing powerlines at the Yanchep fire and flagged a wider audit. "A number of historical issues have arisen from clashing conductor incidents," Mr Bowron said yesterday. "We have investigated and dealt with Western Power on each of these at the time of the incident and there is an ongoing dialogue between the Office of Energy Safety and Western Power to resolve all outstanding issues. We propose that we will do a formal audit on clashing conductors in the future. "

The Yanchep fire is the latest of at least 10 fires over the past seven years caused by clashing power lines, faults or fallen power poles. Clashing power lines caused the Tenterden fires in 2003 that killed two women and also the Toodyay fires in 2007 which killed a local teacher. Western Power customer services general manager Mark de Laeter said inspections had been up to date at Yanchep but the work had not yet been carried out.

"Whilst we'd like to fix everything straight away, it's just not possible, we prioritise according to risk," Mr de Laeter said. "That's the challenging task, we've got a limited amount of funding and a limited amount of people that funding will pay for." He said the utility had made a submission to the State Government for $280 million on bushfire mitigation over next three years, up from $123 million.

"Electricity networks are inherently dangerous and we've got hundreds of thousands of line sections and millions of components and keeping up with that is a challenging task," Mr de Laeter said. The money would be spent on conductor clashing issues, pole-top insulation, and managing vegetation. Forest Products Commission general manager Paul Biggs said the Yanchep fires caused $10 million damage to its pine plantation and he was investigating the report.

"Our main priorities are obviously to repair the damage that has been done, to the best of our ability, and to try and do what we can to reduce the risk of more fires in the future," Mr Biggs said. "The initial cost of containing the fire, cleaning up the site and replanting is likely to be in the region of $10 million. "That figure does not include timber lost in the blaze, as we are still working to calculate the exact value. "

You pay for 'free power audits

Sunday Mail Adelaide
Sunday 22/2/2009 Page: 31

ENERGY giant AGL has raised supply charges for 250,000 customers to pay for an energy saving scheme. The rise comes despite Energy Minister Pat Conlon saying the Residential Energy Efficiency Scheme (REES) was "intended to benefit all types of households" and would save them "around $80 a year" on energy bills.

While AGL wouldn't say how much charges would rise, it said the cash would be used to provide energy audits to some of its 10,000 low income customers as required under the scheme. AGL spokesman Andrew Scannell said the company was "undertaking free home energy audits and free energy efficiency activities for South Australian concession customers and customers on AGL's Staying Connected program". "These activities include the replacement of up to eight incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs and the change over of inefficient shower heads to low-flow shower heads," he said.

Under the scheme all major energy retailers must make the same offer to "priority" customers. However, Origin Energy said it was at least a couple of months away from making this service available. And when TRUEnergy was asked about the REES scheme, its director of corporate affairs, Kate Shea, said "it's coming in on July 1, isn't it?".

The scheme started on January 1 and the State Government has been running a radio and print advertising campaign. It's encouraging householders to contact their energy provider and take part in the scheme to "save energy and reduce your power bills". However, AGL, Origin Energy and TRUEnergy recorded telephone enquiry options provide no information about how to obtain a free energy audit. The Essential Services Commission of SA, which administers the scheme, said this was "unsatisfactory".

White paper is no concrete deal

Weekend Australian
Saturday 21/2/2009 Page: 6

THE cement industry has accused the federal Government of being "fork tongued" after learning it would qualify for fewer free permits under the emissions trading scheme than it had been led to believe. According to the industry, one of the nation's most energy intensive, it faces an extra $60 million a year in costs. Cement Industry Federation chief executive Robyn Bain warned that the difference would push production and jobs offshore to countries that had lower environmental standards.

"Economically, it's irresponsible, and environmentally, it's totally irresponsible," Ms Bain said. The Government began this week telling trade-exposed industries of the detail of its proposed ETS compensation arrangements. Ms Bain said draft guidelines showed the cement industry would qualify for less assistance than previously thought because the Government had defined very narrowly the specific activities for which free permits would be paid.

She said key parts of cement production, such as mining limestone and grinding raw material, had been excluded from calculations for assistance. It meant the industry would receive 80% of its permits free instead of the 90% the white paper had led it to believe. Ms Bain accused the Government of going back on its word.

"I think they speak with forked tongue," she said. "From our point of view, what is trade-exposed is the product itself. It makes no sense to allocate permits for only certain parts of the process." She said about 20% of the nation's cement was imported from countries such as China, Indonesia and Thailand, and she warned that without proper compensation, the level of imports would rise, threatening many of the industry's 1870 jobs, especially those in regional Australia.

Ms Bain said new investment in the industry, which turned over more than $1.25 billion a year, would likely fall. "Over time, this industry will not invest in itself and renew," she said. "The three cement companies would look to transform themselves into importers." Ms Bain said she and representatives from Australia's three cement producers (Blue Circle, Cement Australia and Adelaide Brighton) had cancelled a meeting with the Department of Climate Change's permit allocation branch planned for Monday.

"We are so off the same page there's no point having a meeting," she said. Instead, the industry was seeking a meeting with department head Martin Parkinson and would meet Climate Change Minister Penny Wong next month to urge for a change to the compensation scheme.

Emissions plan an incentive to pollute - Rework carbon scheme, say critics

Saturday 21/2/2009 Page: 3

IT IS perhaps the least understood part of carbon trading - that action by households or communities to tackle climate change will not lower Australia's total greenhouse footprint.

Academics and environmentalists this week expressed alarm that under the Government's proposed scheme any voluntary cuts would leave heavy-polluting industries with less to do for the nation to meet its greenhouse target. They say the scheme must be redesigned so the biggest emitters are not let off the hook, and others - individuals, green businesses and local and state governments - do not face a perverse incentive to stop cutting emissions.

Environment Victoria campaigns director Mark Wakeham called on the Government to find ways to measure voluntary emissions cuts and reduce the greenhouse budget available to big polluters accordingly. "I don't think people are aware of this, but I think the Government is assuming that the community will continue to do its bit and it won't mind giving the polluters a free ride," he said. "

At the moment there is a terrible incentive there to not buy green power and not ride your bike to work, but to actually pollute more - to use more energy or drive your Hummer to work to drive carbon prices up and force polluters to change their behaviour." Alan Pears, an RMIT adjunct professor and policy adviser to the Voluntary Carbon Markets Association, said under the scheme anyone wanting to back renewable energy projects was better off investing overseas. "Isn't our objective to mobilise the community and grow the industries that underpin a lowcarbon future? And yet this is undermining the community and driving low-carbon industries offshore," he said.

Richard Denniss, executive director of left-leaning think tank the Australia Institute, accused the Government of falsely suggesting individuals could make a difference. He pointed to the Department of Climate Change website, which says: "By doing things smarter and more efficiently within our own homes we can all help to reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions." Dr Denniss said Prince Minister Kevin Rudd may have misled Parliament earlier this month by claiming the Government's plan to insulate household roofs could be equivalent to taking a million cars off the road. "He either doesn't understand the system or he is misleading the population," he said.

The attack conies after 10 days of confusion over whether the Government was shifting its climate change policy. Treasurer Wayne Swan announced a surprise lower house committee inquiry into the scheme, but cancelled it when it was interpreted as a sign of cold feet. Both the Opposition and the Greens have criticised the scheme's design.

A growing number of environmental groups are calling on the Senate to block the scheme in its current form. While some cite failure to directly count voluntary cuts, more oppose what they say are inadequate greenhouse targets - 5 to 15% by 2020 - and $9 billion in compensation for big emitters over the first three years.

Not all environmentalists agree that the lack of recognition of individual action is a problem. Privately, some say it is an intrinsic part of any market based scheme designed to cut emissions at least cost to the entire community. A spokeswoman for Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said the Government would help households do their bit through an energy efficiency package that would lower electricity bills and help achieve national greenhouse targets.

*AUSTRALIA'S recycling effort is on the brink of a crisis as ripples from the world financial crash start lapping against kerbside rubbish collection around the country. Prices for used plastic, aluminium cans, cardboard, paper and many scrap metals have plummeted by up to three quarters since October, meaning that in some regions it is now cheaper to send sorted rubbish straight to landfill rather than to recycling stations, industry sources have told The Age.

Claims of collusion

Adelaide Advertiser
Saturday 21/2/2009 Page: 24

A SOUTH Australian solar energy company is ensnared in a bitter United States lawsuit driven by claims of misleading financial disclosures, falling share prices and insider trading. Adelaide chief executive Greg Watson is angry that his company Green and Gold Energy has been dragged into a class action between New Mexico solar cell maker Emcore and its furious shareholders. Documents filed in the New Mexico District Court claim Emcore misrepresented the size of an order placed with them by Green and Gold. The documents imply the company colluded with Emcore. Mr Watson denied any wrongdoing.

Monday 23 February 2009

State backs Albany wave power project

West Australian
Friday 20/2/2009 Page: 12

The world's biggest wave power project is set to go ahead near Albany after the State Government last night announced it would contribute $12.5 million to the renewable energy initiative. Carnegie Corporation's $300 million pilot project aims to produce 50MW of power from the ocean off the South-West - enough electricity for 30,000 homes.

Environment Minister Donna Faragher and Energy Minister Peter Collier said funding from the Government's Low Emissions Energy Development fund would help Carnegie Corporation to develop its power station by 2013. The funding was subject to the Perth-based company matching every dollar of Government funds with $3 from elsewhere, Mrs Faragher said.

WA had risked losing the project to Victoria because the Barnett Government had delayed announcing the winning tender for LEED's October round of grants. The delay fuelled fears among renewable energy companies that the fund was under threat from the Government's plan to slash 3% from all departments' spending.

The Victorian Government announced this week it was keen to use its equivalent $72 million Energy Technology and Innovation Strategy fund to attract Carnegie Corporation's project to the coast off its Gippsland region. The system was invented in WA by Carnegie Corporation chairman Alan Burns. Submerged buoys on the seafloor collect wave energy in the form of pressurised sea water that is pumped through turbines onshore.

The water can also be desalinated using a reverse-osmosis procedure. WA Sustainable Energy Association Chief executive Ray Wills said the program would take advantage of WA's ocean resource. "It's fabulous because it will provide base-load power to the South-West grid and dispel a range of criticisms that some analysts of renewable energy have," Mr Wills said. Carnegie Corporation declined to comment.

$435m boost for green energy ideas

West Australian
Friday 20/2/2009 Page: 12

The Rudd Government is set to pump $435 million into renewable energy projects to help make them commercially viable as part of efforts to wean the nation off fossil fuels and stimulate green industries. Speaking in Perth today, Federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson will unveil a scheme to help companies with embryonic green energy projects take their ideas to the next level, handing them grants of between $50 million and $100 million.

Mr Ferguson, who will visit Carnegie Corporation's revolutionary wave energy pilot project in Fremantle, believes the scheme will benefit a wide range of solar, geothermal and wind and wave projects across the country. It is hoped the funds will stimulate more than $1 billion worth of private sector investment, with the Government providing $1 for every $2 invested by successful applicants.

"I am hopeful such a large level of investment will accelerate the deployment of new renewable energy technologies here in Australia and position Australian companies at the forefront of the global technology race for cleaner energy supplies," Mr Ferguson will say. The Renewable Energy Demonstration Program is aimed at taking pilot projects to the next stage of commercial demonstration.

Carnegie Corporation is developing a technology that uses wave power to deliver high-pressure seawater ashore, creating either zero-emission electricity or desalinated water. Mr Ferguson will also take aim at generous feed-in tariffs for solar energy, saying they favour one renewable energy technology at the expense of others. Environmentalists have been urging the Government to adopt a nationwide tariff which would reward people installing solar panels by paying them for the energy generated at well above the retail price.

"Artificially pricing one energy source 300% or 400% higher than others could divert investment from technologies that might in fact produce better environmental outcomes at lower cost," Mr Ferguson will say. "Legislating a feed-in tariff effectively picks that jurisdiction's renewable energy of choice - and it can be very expensive. "It is the Australian Government's objective to deliver renewable energy to Australian consumers at the lowest possible cost."

Green plan rubbished - Carbon offsets `do nothing'

Courier Mail
Friday 20/2/2009 Page: 23

A FEDERAL Government scheme that has spent millions of dollars fighting greenhouse gases did nothing to reduce overall emissions, a leading industry figure said. Australians who voluntarily spent money with the Government's Greenhouse Friendly carbon offset projects to cut their impact on the planet were simply "giving big polluters a free ride".

This was because the Government could sell the spare emissions created by voluntary action to another country which was producing excess emissions. Freddy Sharp, head of international renewable energy offset provider Climate Friendly, said the Government's scheme was "outdated and misleading", a further 1.26 million tonnes last year. Prices for carbon offsets vary but retail prices start from about $12 a tonne.

When the Greenhouse Friendly-accredited offsets are bought, they are used by the Government to show a reduction in national emissions, and the credits can then be traded with countries which may have overshot their targets.

Josh Harris, head of carbon markets for The Climate Group, a global coalition of government and industry groups, said Greenhouse Friendly offsets "were not benefiting the atmosphere". "If you want to help Australia meet its national greenhouse account, then those offsets have," he said. "But like most consumers, I'd want mine to benefit the atmosphere."

Emission statement that reflects Howard's worldview

Canberra Times
Friday 20/2/2009 Page: 13

The Government's carbon scheme is riddled with exemptions, Andrew Macintosh writes last week, in the midst of the bushfire crisis, the Rudd Government announced it was initiating an inquiry by the House of Representatives standing committee on economics on whether an emissions trading scheme was the best way to reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions.

While the timing of the announcement left many perplexed, the inquiry presents the Government with a golden opportunity to rethink its inefficient and ineffective carbon pollution reduction scheme. Many economists and climate policy analysts prefer emissions trading schemes to other mitigation options because theoretically they should reduce emissions at least cost while ensuring the Government can identify and achieve a credible rate of emissions reductions. The Government's scheme will achieve neither of these objectives.

The Rudd Government has punched so many holes in its scheme through exemptions and the provision of free permits that there is no chance of least-cost abatement. The impact of the scheme on transport fuels will be offset by a cent-for-cent reduction in the fuel excise. Big polluters in the electricity generation and trade-exposed sectors will receive a bountiful supply of free permits. The agriculture and deforestation sectors, which account for 26% of Australia's emissions, will be excluded..

When industries are given favourable treatment in an emissions trading scheme, the efficiency of the scheme is compromised. This is not groundbreaking economics. Polluting rights will not be distributed to the most economically efficient polluters and the price signals in the market will be distorted, obstructing their capacity to encourage an efficient shift to a less carbon-intensive economy. This scheme scores just as low on environmental credibility as it does on cost effectiveness.

Before the 2007 federal election, Rudd stated that "unless we are able to stabilise greenhouse gas emissions at something in the order of 450-490 parts per million, then frankly we place the planet in grave danger of not being able to correct itself". He was correct. And, since he made this statement, the situation has got worse, with further deterioration of key climate indicators.

While Rudd seems to get the science, it has played little part in the formation of the scheme's white paper. The paper states that stabilising the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases at 450 ppm "would be in Australia's interests' and then goes on to propose a target of reducing Australia's emissions by 5% to 15% below 2000 levels by 2020, Given the conditions the Government has placed on the 15% target, about 5% looks more likely.

Any target for 2020 that is less than 30% is light-years away from a 450ppm outcome. If other countries respond as Australia has done, the Government's 5% target puts the globe on track for a 650ppm-plus result. The world will be a fundamentally different place if the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases is allowed to reach this level. The environmental flaws in the announced scheme are compounded because it locks in failure until at least 2020. Once the scheme is in the place, the compensation required to shift its targets and gateways will ensure there is no significant change during the next decade.

The announcement of the House of Representatives inquiry left many confused. Why would the Government now be asking whether emissions trading is the way to go? If the Government had doubts about emissions trading, they should have been investigated before it invested trillions in its Garnaut Review-green paper-white paper process.

The spin put out by the Minister for Water and Climate Change, Penny Wong, is that the Government wants a forum in which to "confirm that cap-and-trade is the best approach, and that alternative policies are simply not up to the task of reducing carbon pollution at the lowest economic cost".

If Wong thinks the committee will be inundated with submissions from supporters of the announced scheme, she is delusional. Members of the fossil fuel lobby are the only ones likely to embrace the scheme, but even they have gripes. In particular, like the Coalition, they don't want the scheme to start in 2010 as planned. Postponing commencement is the least the Government could do.

There is no use forcing businesses to incur substantial compliance costs in the current economic climate for no noticeable environmental benefit. Delaying the start of the scheme would also enable the Government to adjust it to account for the outcomes of the international climate conference in Copenhagen later this year.

At this point the best thing the Government could do is scrap its scheme and start again. The Rudd Government has proved it is the mirror image of the Howard government on climate policy. If it wants to shake this image, it's going to have to put forward a more cost effective and environmentally credible scheme than what is currently on offer.

Andrew Macintosh is the associate director of the Australian National University's Centre for Climate Law and Policy.

Labor `undeterred' on carbon plan - Growing calls for scheme rethink

Friday 20/2/2009 Page: 2

THE Federal Government has sought to lock in the design and timeline of its emissions trading scheme despite increasing calls from green and industry groups to dump or alter the policy. Climate Change Minister Penny Wong will today assure business economists in Sydney that an Australian trading scheme will begin in July 2010. "Our Government remains undeterred in our determination to implement the carbon pollution reduction scheme because we know it is the economically responsible course of action for Australia," Senator Wong will say at a lunch.

Treasurer Wayne Swan has shut down a committee inquiry into emissions trading because its stated aims had been "politicised and distorted" after its initiation sparked rumours the Government was walking away from emissions trading. Senator Wong and Mr Swan are trying to counteract mounting pressure from green and industry groups to alter, delay or dump the scheme.

Industry sources have told The Age that several major corporations have agitated for a carbon tax to replace an emissions trading scheme. It is believed representatives from BHP Billiton, Woodside Petroleum, Exxon-Mobil and Apache, among others, have expressed their desire for a carbon tax in recent discussions with the Government.

Exxon-Mobil spokeswoman Gemma Allman said the company preferred a carbon tax because it was "more efficient and effective". Opposition emissions trading spokesman Andrew Robb said a carbon tax was only one option being considered by the Coalition, and emissions trading remained official Opposition policy.

Mr Robb said the Coalition had always planned to review its support for emissions trading but would wait for economic analysis it has commissioned to return next week, before stating an official position. The Age believes Mr Robb, Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull and environment spokesman Greg Hunt broadly support an emissions trading scheme, but with alterations to include more offset schemes, energy efficiency programs and potentially allowing companies from the Pacific region to enter into carbon trading. That position is likely to be challenged by other members of the Coalition, especially from the National Party, before a Senate vote scheduled for June.

Greens Senator Christine Milne said: "Unless and until the old parties get real about serious emissions reductions, the tax or trade debate is the distraction, the target is the key. There is a long way to go in developing a workable scheme with serious targets that the Senate might be ready to pass." The Climate Institute Australia's policy director, Erwin Jackson, said the real message was being lost: "While all the politicians are running around like headless chooks playing politics, we are forgetting that we should be aiming to reduce emissions and develop a clean green economy."