Thursday 19 March 2009

Shire leads way with solar array

Courier Mail
Wednesday 18/3/2009 Page: 17

Barcoo Shire in Queensland's far southwest is bigger than Tasmania with a population of just a few hundred. But that has not stopped it becoming an Australian leader in alternative energy production. Instead of relying on diesel-powered generators, Windorah, one of three towns in the shire, draws much of its energy from the sun.

A bank of collectors allows Ergon Energy to power the town of 90 people, although they still require a diesel backup during prolonged cloudy conditions. Barcoo Shire Mayor Bruce Scott said the five collectors, which cost Ergon $4 million, were so successful the energy company was now considering a plant for Jundah, the shire headquarters.

"Because of the success at Windorah, where the fuel bill has been cut dramatically, the shire is now looking at ways to use solar energy in the Jundah administration centre and the sports complex," Cr Scott said. "Eventually the council and the power generator are looking towards providing 300 kWs for the town of 120." Cr Scott said the Windorah success suggested other remote communities should "follow suit and tap into the sun's energy".

"If we are to meet Kyoto (commitments to cut global warming) we need to find alternative energy sources sooner, rather than later," he said. "Governments really need to expand their thinking and perhaps look at geothermal power to run baseload electricity generation stations." Cr Scott said his shire considered itself to be "clean and green for living" with its produce cattle "grass-fed without any insecticides or the other nasties".

"We see solar technology as just part of that environment," he said. "We may be a long way from Brisbane and Canberra but we are proud that, with Ergon, we are showing a clean way."

Thinking Outside The Square

Canberra Times
Wednesday 18/3/2009 Page: 10

Scientists and engineers are thinking outside the square to fight climate change in Canberra. They are working to improve existing technologies and create new ones to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. Nyssa Skilton reports on three technologies being developed in Canberra.

Wind power
Finding the best spot for a wind turbine can be tricky. There has to be lots of wind, but also wind has to flow smoothly. Windlab Systems has developed software tools to improve windfarm efficiency. The Canberra-based company's latest offering will be a computational model to predict turbulence on wind energy sites.

Turbulent air can inflict different forces on the turbine blades and structure, increasing wear and also decreasing the amount of energy the turbine can extract. The model uses computational fluid dynamics to calculate and predict levels of turbulence in air passing through the disc of the turbine blades, so engineers can avoid placing turbines in areas of turbulent air flow.

Windlab's chief technology officer Keith Ayotte said one of the major challenges was that one turbulence analysis could require hundreds of billions of computer calculations. "Because the amount of power we have with computers is increasing fairly rapidly, we're only really now getting to the point where we can consider doing these things," he said. Wind lab plans to release the model commercially at the end of the year or beginning of next.

Angled Buried Contact Cell
A solar cell with hidden metal contacts may be another step in the efforts to improve solar efficiency. Canberra-based company Spark Solar Australia is working to develop the technology, called the Angled Buried Contact cell or ABC cell. Metal contacts act to draw electrical current from the cell. But they also shade about 7% of the surface of the cell from sunlight, reducing the cell's ability to convert sunlight into electricity. Hiding the contacts can improve cell efficiency by about 7% .

Spark directors Michelle McCann and Peter Fath, together with colleagues at the University of Konstanz in Germany, first developed the technology in 2005. But creating the ABC cell grooves into the surface of the cell at an angle. Surfaces that face upwards are covered in an insulating layer of silicon nitride and the metal is deposited on the exposed surfaces.

The contacts are hidden away underneath the surface of the cell, increasing the surface area that can collect sunlight. Spark Solar Australia plans to spend several years in further research, development and commercialisation of the technology.

Solar-powered air-conditioner
A team of engineers and scientists are developing a solar energyed air-conditioner, which can cool or heat a home and provide hot water year round.

The Australian National University design replaces the electrical compressor in a conventional air-conditioner with a solar energyed thermal compressor. Solar energy is provided in the form of heat, not electricity, from conventional solar water heater panels. Dr Mike Dennis, from the college of engineering and computer science, said the air-conditioner was similar to a traditional household split-system, except for the power source.

"The whole idea is to make it as seamless as possible, so it's very similar in look and feel to a conventional air conditioner," Dennis said. "In fact, the only difference people will see is the solar panel on the roof." Dennis said the refrigerants circulating in traditional air conditioning units were several thousand times more potent greenhouse gases than carbon dioxide.

He predicts the manufacture cost will be low as it has only one moving part. A two-year commercially driven development program started this year at ANU.

Green energy firm pledges 1200 jobs

Wednesday 18/3/2009 Page: 7

RENEWABLE energy company Pacific Hydro has challenged claims the Government's climate change policies will cost jobs, saying it will create at least 1200 new positions at Hydro over the next five years if they are implemented.

Pacific Hydro chief executive Rob Grant told The Age any potential job losses in coal mining would be offset by the construction and operation of four windfarms once legislation for an emissions trading scheme and a 20% renewable energy target were passed. Two of the windfarms would be in Victoria, creating 600 jobs.

The promise of green jobs comes as experts and environmental groups hit out at a threat by mining giant Xstrata to fire 1000 coal miners in NSW and cancel plans to invest $7 billion in new jobs if the Government's scheme passed the Senate.

During question time in Federal Parliament yesterday, the Opposition raised concerns by Envirogen, a company that converts "fugitive emissions" from coal mines into energy, that the Government's emissions trading scheme would force it to close, risking 100 jobs.

Prince Minister Kevin Rudd responded by saying, The whole function of introducing a carbon price into the economy is to encourage the development of renewable energy industries and, in turn, to generate further employment from it." Mr Grant said he expected at least 10 windfarms to be built by all players in the wind energy sector, potentially creating 3000 on-site jobs, 1000 long-term operational jobs and an increase in manufacturing jobs in tower construction.

We'll be a nuclear nation in five years

Adelaide Advertiser
Wednesday 18/3/2009 Page: 11

Dr SwitkowskiA DECISION to build a nuclear reactor in Australia will be made within five years, nuclear advocate Ziggy Switkowski says. Dr Switkowski, chairman of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation and a former Telstra chief executive, said yesterday the community was not yet ready for nuclear energy, but the tide was turning.

Speaking at the Paydirt 2009 Uranium Conference in Adelaide, he said polls showed more than half of the community now supported nuclear energy - but not where they lived.

"The community is not yet ready for nuclear energy and therefore I understand the position of politicians who don't want to move ahead of community opinion," he said. "Over time, the government will find, as other governments have, nuclear energy is too important and effective a source of clean energy to be ignored.

"I think we're two to five years away from that." Dr Switkowski said nuclear had to be part of the solution if the Government was serious about tackling climate change. "Targeted deep greenhouse gas emission reductions will almost certainly prove beyond the capability of existing technologies and renewable energy platforms to deliver in the available time," he said.

"Our lights will start to go out as investment in clean, base-load energy generation stalls in an uncertain regulatory environment and the nuclear alternative is not validated." Dr Switkowski said 31 countries, representing two-thirds of humanity, used nuclear energy for some electricity. "That is expected to grow to 50 countries by 2020," he said.

Greens' call on energy

Daily Telegraph
Wednesday 18/3/2009 Page: 17

THE NSW Greens have accused Newcastle Lord Mayor John Tate of "foolishly clinging to a bygone era" by calling to delay the Government's emissions trading scheme. Mr Tate was one of several mayors who yesterday said that the scheme should be put on hold because it risked too many local mining jobs.

But Greens MP Lee Rhiannon said mining accounted for only 3% of the Hunter's workforce, down from 4% in 1996. "John Tate should be lobbying Premier Nathan Rees to invest in Hunter-based renewable energy industries to create long-term local jobs growth," she said.

"The potential for Hunter based jobs in renewable energy and public transport is massive and jobs created would last for many decades, unlike coalmining jobs." Greens councillor Michael Osborne said jobs in retail, education, health, tourism and the arts not mining would drive Newcastle's future economic growth. "Newcastle's future is culture, not coal." he said.

Clean energy will create jobs - PM

Summaries - Australian Financial Review
Wednesday 18/3/2009 Page: 14

Following the declaration from Federal Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull that the Coalition would oppose the current emissions trading scheme proposal, and comments from miner Xstrata that the ETS could force its to close four mines, losing 4000 jobs, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd yesterday responded in parliament. Mr Rudd said 'over time we will see job generation coming out of the renewable energy sector,' a claim backed by Pacific Hydro chief executive Rob Grant, who said investment in clean energy could create 'tens of thousands of new jobs.'

Wednesday 18 March 2009

Government hit on solar tariff plan

Tuesday 17/3/2009 Page: 4

UNIONS have accused the State Government of forfeiting thousands of new jobs and billions of investment dollars by going soft on solar energy. In a letter to the Premier, Trades Hall secretary Brian Boyd said a broader and more generous solar subsidy scheme had the potential to create $2.5 billion in solar investment and 2500 jobs.

"(Trades Hall) is disappointed that the Victorian Government is not implementing policies that will create new jobs around key environmental positions," he wrote. Under legislation introduced last week, households will receive a subsidy for electricity generated by domestic solar panels, amounting to 60 cents for every unused kW hour fed back into the power grid.

Critics argue that this will not increase the take-up of solar panels and should be extended to businesses and community groups to harness more solar energy. The tariff they advocate involves payments for all the solar energy produced, not just that added to the grid.

The Electrical Trades Union has campaigned for a "gross feed-in tariff", mindful that its introduction in Germany in 2000 triggered more than 40,000 jobs in the solar industry. Victorian secretary Dean Mighell described the state's net feed-in laws as terrible and he called on the Federal Government to insist on a national gross feed-in tariff. "I've got more than 17,000 potential climate change warriors in this state," he said.

Energy Minister Peter Batchelor has opposed a gross feed-in tariff, saying it would be unfair to households that did not have solar panels. But a solar expert, University of New South Wales academic Muriel Watt, has studied the likely impact of a gross system in NSW and found it would cost all households three to four cents a week. Victoria and Queensland have opted for a net tariff, while the ACT and Western Australia have chosen a gross tariff. NSW will decide within days.

In January, The Age revealed that an internal Department of Sustainability and Environment document had found the uptake of solar energy "will be no greater" under the proposed scheme. The memo put the household cost of a "gross" tariff at $7 a year, not the $100 the Government claimed. In his letter, Mr Boyd said the Government's position was based on a wrong assumption about the cost to households.

Mr Batchelor said the feed-in tariff was designed to make solar panels more affordable. "I would have thought that Trades Hall would have been more interested in a scheme that minimises the costs imposed on Victorian families while helping households implement solar technology," he said.

Senate raises the bar for Rudd's ETS

Summaries - Australian Financial Review
Tuesday 17/3/2009 Page: 8

The Rudd government may have to make radical changes to its emissions trading scheme (ETS) legislation to win Senate support, while a major power generator warned a delay to the start of the scheme may stall new investment in the sector. TRUEnergy managing director Richard McIndoe said the government's proposed scheme came with large risks, including threatening secure electricity supplies.

Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull confirmed on the weekend his party would reject the government's emissions trading design, putting the future of the scheme into doubt. Mr Turnbull said the scheme should be delayed to 2012 and that emission intensive, trade-exposed (EITE) companies should receive 100% of their permits for free.

Senator Nick Xenophon, who could help the government secure passage of the legislation, said the government needs to overhaul the scheme by dropping absolute emissions caps and adopting emissions intensity targets. Mr Turnbull seized on claims by coal mining giant Xstrata that the ETS would put four of its coal mines and 4000 jobs at risk.

The next really cool thing

Summaries - Australian Financial Review
Tuesday 17/3/2009 Page: 62

President Barack Obama's stimulus package has given renewable energy a terrific boost that will pay lasting benefits. And we need to keep working on all forms of solar, geothermal and wind energy. Without game changers, climate change will have its way with us. While we will still need coal for some time, let's make sure we do not chase the fantasy that we can clean up coal when our real future lies in creating new technologies to replace it.

Wood fired power station approved

West Australian
Tuesday 17/3/2009 Page: 16

Environment Minister Donna Faragher has approved plans for a 40MW wood-burning power station in Manjimup, the middle of the State's food bowl. WA Biomass Pty Ltd, a joint venture between Babcock and Brown and National Power, wants to build a $110 million plant which will burn 380,000 tonnes of waste from the timber industry each year that would save about 250,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. Residents in Bridgetown drove the plant out after concerns about smoke.

Tuesday 17 March 2009

Eco-worries, Green Tradies and a warning

Sunday Age
Sunday 15/3/2009 Page: 1

Eco-worries and generous rebates mean tradespeople are learning important new skills. But what does it mean for householders? Michael Green reports.

VICTORIAN tradies are leading Australia's green skills revolution, making up more than half the workers accredited under two leading national training schemes, Green Plumbers and EcoSmart Electricians. That puts the state on the frontline of a huge practical transformation among Australia's skilled workers. "Demand for the 'green collar' trades is quite extraordinary," says Tony Amel, Victoria's Building and Plumbing Industry Commissioner and Green Building Council of Australia chairman.

He estimates that in the past year alone, interest in sustainable plumbing has risen by about one-fifth. But this surge in interest doesn't translate to easier decision-making for consumers. With so many eco-choices and products, it's hard to be sure you're, getting the right advice. Besides, what exactly does a "green' tradie do differently? And what sort of training have they completed?

Mr Amel believes that tradespeople playa crucial role in translating sustainability issues into in-the-home solutions. Essentially they can become environmental advocates. "Tradies are at the coalface. More than anybody else in the domestic sector, they're in a position to influence the choice of consumers. They play a critical role." An expert green tradie will have thorough knowledge of the products available and the most efficient options for the client's situation.

Plumbers and electricians, in particular, can help existing householders make the most immediate improvements. Their expertise relates directly to water and electricity efficiency, from rainwater tanks and low-flow toilets to solar energy and low-energy lighting. But sustainability is a factor in every household job. Bart Scheen is a manager in the Building Industry Training Centre at Holmesglen TAFE. He says that eco-trailing is now a standard part of every apprenticeship. "When students are working with products, they really need to understand the impact of those products on the environment," he says.

According to Mr Scheen, that includes embodied energy (energy used in making the product) and the leftovers from the job. "There has been a common practice to calculate materials and allow for a 10% wastage," he says. "What we're trying to get into apprentices is that they have to take much more care in working out the quantities." The apprentices are proving enthusiastic about his message.

Research group Dusseldorp Skills Forum (DSF) surveyed young tradies last year and found that nearly 90% of respondents were interested in been skills. "Unfortunately, they're being held back by older tradespeople," says DSF's Judy Turnbull. "They are really keen to provide green skills and knowledge to their clients but they're not being encouraged to do so by their employers." In the long term, the attitudes of younger tradies will make for a fundamental shift in the building industry.

In the meantime, although many established tradespeople aren't convinced that the public is sufficiently interested in sustainability, others have taken the enviro-plunge and been well-rewarded. "Some 'early adopters' have decided its a point of difference to provide green painting or building or carpentry" Ms Turnbull says. "They've seen the future. and when they've added a green bunch of skills they find themselves in great demand."

To help build eco-awareness among construction workers, DSF will soon launch a new website, Trade Secrets, where green tradies will be able to share their stories, tips and successes. To begin with, the organisation has posted more than a dozen videos of different green tradespeople on YouTube.

The current training gap is also a concern for the commissioner, Mr Amel. "There needs to be a lot more work going into the training of tradespeople," he says. 'Also, from a consumer point of view, these green credentials need to be verifiable. If you pick up the phone book and you've got green electricians and green plumbers, what does that mean? I describe it as the 'been veneer' - basically anybody can use the teen.

Consumers need to know whether or not there is any substance in a person's claim." He says that industry training programs such as GreenPlunbers, run by the Master Plumbers and Mechanical Services Association, are a good start. "They saw sustainability in buildings becoming a major challenge and opportunity. Now we need to take the next step (in training) because we've got to think about the way all the trades operate." For plumbers, the next step will be the Plumbing Industry Climate Action Centre, which is being built in Brunswick.

The centre, jointly funded by the State Government and industry bodies and unions, will offer extensive train ing across all aspects of sustainable plumbing. It is scheduled to open next month. While greenwash - or the green veneer - hasn't yet become a severe problem in the construction industry, the state consumer watchdog, Consumer Affairs Victoria, has received more than 10 complains and about 45 inquiries about tradies offering to install solar panels and water tanks.

Some tradespeople are spruiking door-to-door, then demanding large payments up front while delaying installation. In some cases, the tradies also tried to increase the cost of solar energy systems after consumers had signed the contracts. "The best way for consumers to protect themselves from itinerant tradespeople is to deal with reputable, registered businesses in their area," says Consumer Affairs spokeswoman Emma Neal.

As with any building work, consumers should ask lots of questions, check with the relevant industry association and do as much research as they can. No matter what your green issue is, there's a wealth of information on the Internet. It's also wise to take simple precautions. "Never pay for anything upfront in cash," Ms Neal recommends. "Ask for a quote and a warranty in writing and ask to see references or ask friends or family if they've dealt with the company."

Uni's solar panel captures more light

Sydney Morning Herald
Monday 16/3/2009 Page: 5

NEW technology that was developed in Sydney and allows solar panels to capture more sunshine is expected to influence panel production around the world. The technology is about to be demonstrated at the University of New South Wales. A world-first silicon solar cell production line will be built at the university, using funds from a German energy corporation and the Federal Government.

It is expected to help revitalise the local solar industry, which has been badly affected by the closure last year of its largest factory, run by BP Solar in Homebush, and from a perceived lack of incentive for people who want to install solar energy at home. The pilot program at the university will demonstrate new production techniques that allow traditional panels to catch more light from the blue end of the spectrum, the short wavelengths.

The problem with many existing solar cells is that the shorter wavelengths of light are reflected back by a layer of phosphate ducting within the panel. The new technique allows the phosphate ducts to be better aligned, so more light can be absorbed, without adding to production costs. It will also deploy new laser cutting techniques that allow greater precision when cutting the edges of wafer-thin silicon and aligning it to the metal frames which conduct electricity from the panel to the battery.

The work will be done at the university's new Solar Industrial Research Facility, which will focus on applying Australian research to commercial production. "There have been a lot of people looking at solutions to these problems around the world for a long time, but I think we've got it," said Dr Richard Corkish, head of the university's School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering.

The plant is designed to demonstrate technology and enhance the skills of industry workers, but it will also produce functioning panels that could be fitted to the university's buildings, Dr Corkish said. The new centre will be operational early next year.

''This is something we've dreamed of for many, many years, and it's been a challenge putting it all together," Dr Corkish said. "But all the pieces seem to have fallen into place right now, and that's exciting." A German solar panel manufacturer, Roth and Ran, said it was pleased to be partnering the university in its first foray into the Asia-Pacific region.

The renewable energy industry in Australia is growing fast, but it is still struggling to provide electricity at a rate as cheap as that of coal-fired power stations. The NSW Government has followed other states and is committed to introducing feed-in tariffs under which people who generate power at home get paid more than a market rate for feeding it back into the energy grid.

But the type of feed-in tariff it introduces will make a significant difference to the growth of the industry. A net tariff would mean most households would be unable to earn any benefits from their solar panels, whereas the more generous gross tariff would mean much larger benefits. The Government is expected to announce its preference this week.

A Ray Of Power
  • Only 0.1% of Australia's electricity is generated by solar panels, and 40,000 households out of 8 million have them.
  • Government rebates of up to $8000 are available for households that install rooftop solar panels before June 30.
  • Experts estimate that "grid parity", in which renewable energy becomes as cheap as fossil fuel power, is still a decade or more away.

To cut emissions start by capping windy economists

Saturday 14/3/2009 Page: 2

The contrarian push for i It's a delusion to imagine a carbon tax smacks of one approach is politically greenhouse scepticism.

ACCORDING to a growing band of economists, we'd be better off using a carbon tax to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, not the emissions trading scheme the Rudd Government introduced to Parliament this week.

My opinion? Don't believe it. It may be a case of the grass being greener on the other side of the fence. But what worries many, I suspect, is the knowledge we're dealing with reform that limits economic growth rather than promoting it. Though economic modelling tells us growth forgone would be minor, their instincts tell them the disruption would be huge.

The "cap-and-trade" system embodied in the Government's carbon pollution reduction scheme involves a government setting a (slowly reducing) cap on the carbon dioxide emissions it allows each year, then issuing permits equal to the cap. Businesses that have more permits than they need are able to sell them to businesses that don't have enough.

By contrast, a government introducing a carbon tax imposes a charge per tonne of carbon. By raising their price, the tax discourages consumption of emissions-intensive goods and services goods and services, while providing producers with an incentive to reduce emissions. The tax would be raised until it brought about the desired emissions reduction.

The cap-and-trade system works in a similar fashion. By limiting the emissions allowed, it raises the scarcity value and thus the price of emissions intensive goods and services. The emission permits also gain a scarcity value which, provided it sells the permits rather than giving them away, ends up in the Government's coffers. The cost of permits gives businesses an incentive to reduce emissions and buy fewer permits.

The two systems are different ways of achieving the same objective. Cap-and-trade controls the quantity of emissions permitted and lets the market set the price, whereas a carbon tax controls the price of emissions and allows the market to determine the quantity. In theory, cap-and-trade is slightly more sophisticated because it creates a new market for permit trading, which shifts the cost of reducing emissions to businesses most able to bear it (that is, the ones that can reduce their emissions most cheaply).

In practice, however, some economists fear cap-and-trade is harder to administer than a tax, and the market price of permits could be unstable. Some economists support a carbon tax because they believe pollies don't face the temptation to give out free permits, they just raise a tax rate, which is simple. But most economists don't have much feel for politics and I think it's a delusion to imagine one approach is politically superior to the other. Neither system gives the pollies courage they don't possess.

A government that doesn't have the courage to charge for permits wouldn't have the courage to raise a pollution tax until it brought about the desired emissions reduction. One good reason for preferring a trading scheme is that it fits better with what other countries are doing and allows permit trading. Where countries can reduce emissions more cheaply than we can, we effectively pay them to do it for us.

But if there's a reason for economists preferring one system, I think it's which objective they give higher priority: minimising economic cost or maximising environmental certainty. If your concern is emissions reduction you control emissions quantity; if your concern is minimising economic loss then you control emissions price.

Economists are always talking about the need for governments to have the courage to implement unpopular reforms that will leave us better off. Right now the Government is trying to introduce a controversial reform, under fire from all directions. So where are the economists? With a few exceptions they are attending a seminar entitled "Maybe another way would have been better?".

B&B Wind to boost capacity

Summaries - Australian Financial Review
Monday 16/3/2009 Page: 14

Mike George, chief executive of Babcock and Brown Wind Partners, announced the company might reorganise its asset ownership to raise cash if debt markets are frozen until 2010. Wilson HTM analyst Nathan Lead said Babcock and Brown Wind is in good shape. B&B Wind has confirmed its 9 cents annual dividend and is buying 30% of its outstanding shares.

Mr George said if a good offer on the company's wind assets in Germany and France came up in the next 18 months than he would sell them. As governments look to renewable energy resources, Australia's windfarm industry is set to grow by 10% over the next 10 or 15 years. Babcock and Brown Wind is looking to double its wind generating capacity to 1000 MWs.

Warning on rip-offs by dodgy pink batt installers

Monday 16/3/2009 Page: 2

CONSUMERS stand to be ripped off by a flood of dodgy dealers entering the insulation sector to profit from the Rudd Government's $3.9 billion scheme, the industry has warned. Pink batt installers say new businesses run by pest controllers, gyprockers and pool and spa companies have sprung up as battling tradesmen seek to benefit from the Government's offer to pay subsidies up to $1600 to householders buying insulation.

The scheme, which is part of Government's efforts to stimulate the economy, starts on July 1, but householders can already order insulation and apply for a refund. While the Government has hailed the scheme as a way to boost economic activity and energy efficiency, industry veterans have told The Australian taxpayers could have to pay to fix up shoddy work.

The warning follows Opposition criticism that the stimulus package was flawed because some cash handouts were made to foreigners and dead people. Abbco Insulation's Bevin Buksin, an installer for 13 years, said he had been approached by scores of people with no experience, seeking materials.

"I am concerned I am competing against people gyprockers, pest controllers, you name it who have just come into the industry," he said. Justin Beck, manager of installation company Patnicar, said those new to the industry were cutting corners, quoting jobs using Google Earth and not specifying materials. If their method of quotation translates into their method of installation, then everyone should be concerned," he said.

Insulation manufacturer Bradford's Ray Thompson said installers did not need a licence, and no standards applied to existing homes. "Retrofitting of insulation in Australia is a highly unregulated, pretty out-there market," he said. "It's not a highly skilled job, but the management of it requires a good level of knowledge and experience to ensure the jobs are being done well."

Insulation Council of Australia and New Zealand chief executive Dennis D'Arcy said the industry was working with the Government to devise a national training program for installers. He said the Government and the industry should share the costs of mandatory training for all installers.

Tough times `make carbon targets easier' Carbon analyst backs 2010 start date

Monday 16/3/2009 Page: 3

THERE is no need to delay the introduction of Australia's emissions trading scheme according to a highly respected carbon analyst, who says the global economic downturn will make it easier for Australia to sleet its targets.

Mark Lewis, Deutsche Bank's international head of commodities research. whose views are often sought by the Government and Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull, believes Australia should stick to its 2010 start date. He said the drop off in demand for resources would curb Australia's emissions.

His comments came as Mr Turnbull toughened his stance on Australia's carbon pollution reduction scheme, saying he was not convinced that a starting date before 2012 was "practical, responsible or necessary". Speaking to BusinessDay during his trip to Australia where he met policy leaders in Canberra, Mr Lewis said he "definitely wouldn't buy that argument".

"There is a positive way of looking at the financial crisis and a negative way. The negative way is to say this will push discussions about climate change down the pecking order of major issues on a geopolitical scale because global leaders are so concerned about the economic outlook," he said.

"There is never an easy time to bring in a trading scheme but I definitely wouldn't buy that argument that you definitely can't do it in a recession, because it becomes easier to achieve the target. There is no need for delay." Australia is yet to benefit from the drop in demand, with the latest figures from the Climate Group recording a jump in emissions. Victoria's total emissions from energy generation and petrol use over the summer period rose 0.5% , with a 5.6% increase in emissions from coal-fire generators.

Mr Lewis also called on Australia to adopt an adjustable cap on emissions to avoid volatile carbon prices and to seriously consider establishing a central bank to set that level. He said the sharp drop in the European Union's carbon price could provide a lesson for Australia. In a bid to raise funds during the economic slowdown, cash-strapped companies have been selling their emissions permits to raise money, causing the permit price to fall as low as 8 ($A16) in February from almost 31 last July.

"What the European experience is telling us is that policy makers should reserve the right to modulate the market. One of the issues we have seen with the European scheme is that the cap has been fixed very rigidly out to 2020 and there is little or no flexibility to modulate that cap," Mr Lewis said. "With demand suffering the kind of very violent swing that we have seen over the past year we have also seen a volatile carbon price.

"I think as a policy maker you should be able to give yourself the discretion to modulate. That may be through the form of a central bank, which I know is a subject that has been mooted down here."

Optimists focus on the prospect of sharp growth in green jobs

Weekend Australian
Saturday 14/3/2009 Page: 1

ONE of the big unknowns of the environmental debate is how many jobs a shift towards greener technology can deliver, but there is a growing belief that the answer may he in increased government stimulus plans to revive the flagging global economy. Human resource consultants across the world are arguing that, despite the fearsome economic downturn, the need for new energy infrastructure along with the need, especially in supply utilities, to replace an ageing workforce will continue to throw up employment opportunities for talented techies.

Despite the economic problems in Australia, the electricity industry alone is expected to outlay about $100 billion between 2010 and 2020 on building new power generation facilities to meet demand and provide cleaner supply, to upgrade and expand the delivery networks, to improve system efficiency and to roll out a smart meter system for customers across the country.

This level of development throws up challenges for Australian supply organisations in recruitment and training against a continuing need to ensure that the past decade's shortage of skilled workers is overcome, with a wide range of opportunities for those looking to find a way into a career in sustainable energy.

In general, the skills needed for installing and maintaining renewable energy equipment are mainly in the technical and engineering areas, and the broad decline in recent years in the number of students embarking on engineering degrees means that the anticipated strong upward trend in green infrastructure development during the decade ahead will provide a lot of room for those with the necessary talents. The opportunities will be worldwide and not just domestic.

At its meeting in Davos, Switzerland, earlier this year, the World Economic Forum urged policymakers across the developed world to devote $US515 billion a year between now and 2030 on a transition to sources of cleaner energy production. The WEF says various initiatives, such as retro-fitting buildings to make them energy efficient, can provide new jobs and lay the foundations for longer-term economic growth.

Advocates of pursuing efforts to clean up the economy more vigorously point to California as an example of how jobs will follow green venture capital investment. Despite the overall slowing in US investment last year, Californian clean-tech outlays hit a record of $US3.3 billion, double the previous year's investment and seven times that of 2005. While state-wide employment growth between 2005 and 2008 was only 1% , green jobs rose by 10% .

Jim Waring, chairman of CleanTECH San Diego, says his city has the opportunity to become one of the world's leading clean-tech clusters. Just ramping up the program to install solar panels on homes and offices in San Diego provides more work for electricians, plumbers and installers, he says.

Hardheaded analysts in California and elsewhere maintain it is too early to declare green tech the new biotech, a sector that took off spectacularly in the 1990s and generated a large number of jobs in the state, other parts of North America and in the rest of the world. There is still too much uncertainty, they argue.

Australia's environmental lobby has no such doubts. In a statement this month, the Southern Cross Climate Coalition the Australian Conservation Foundation, the ACTU, the Australian Council of Social Service and the Climate Institute Australia joined with the Property Council, the Institute of Superannuation Trustees and the Green Infrastructure Council to call for a three-pronged economic stimulus plan based around "green construction, sustainable infrastructure and green jobs".

The group wants the Rudd Government to go well beyond its $3.8 billion energy efficient homes program to increase stimulus measures to the levels now being pursued in the US and China. It argues that there is a raft of programs that could be pursued, for example making the proposed $21 billion in federal funding for school buildings and community and Defence Department housing conditional on adoption of best practice energy and water efficiency.

Support for small to medium-scale renewable energy installations, such as solar, wind and geothermal plants is another option. While the statement does not focus on it, the Rudd Government's proposed enhanced renewable energy target is designed to drive up to $30 billion worth of investment in zero emissions power generation in the next decade and to cost consumers an estimated $12 billion in extra costs over 10 years from 2010 through subsidies.

The WEF's Davos statement argues that it is possible to swiftly mobilise a wide range of activities such as low-emission technologies, renewable power generation, end-use energy efficiency programs and building insulation schemes. These activities, it says, will provide quick economic returns, a market stimulus and many jobs, while helping to lay the foundations for a low-emissions future.

Monday 16 March 2009

Sahara sun could power Europe ... if anyone has a spare $100 billion

Canberra Times
Friday 13/3/2009 Page: 12

Sahara desertEuropean countries could transform their electricity supplies within a decade by investing in a giant network of solar panels in the Sahara desert, an expert told the global warming conference in Copenhagen. Anthony Patt, of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Africa, said some £50 billion ($A107 billion) of government investment was needed over the next decade to make the scheme a reality.

That would convince private companies that power from the Sahara was both feasible and an attractive investment, he said. In the long term, such a plan, combined with strings of windfarms along the north African coast, could "supply Europe with all the energy it needs". He said technological advances combined with falling costs had made it realistic to consider north Africa as Europe's main source of imported energy. "The sun is very strong there and it's very reliable.

There is starting to be a growing number of cost estimates of both wind and concentrated solar energy for North Africa ... that start to compare favourably with alternative technologies. "The cost of moving [electricity] long distances has really come down." Only a fraction of the Sahara, probably the size of a small country, would need to be covered to produce enough energy to supply the whole of Europe, he said.

The results are the first findings of a research effort, together with experts at the European Climate Forum and the Potsdaan Institute for Climate Impact Research, to judge whether such a Sahara solar plan is realistic. Dr Patt said the team was looking at questions of security and governance, as well as ways to pay for the technology.

The fall results will be presented to governments this year. He said sunshine in the Sahara was twice as strong as in Spain and was a constant resource rarely blocked by clouds, even in winter. The scheme would use mirrors to focus the son's rays on to a thin pipe containing either water or salt.

The rays would boil the water or melt the salt and the resulting energy would power turbines. Unlike wind energy, which usually has to be used immediately because of the cost of storing the electricity generated, the hot water and salt can be stored for several hours. Trials of such concentrated solar energy plants are planned for Egypt, Morocco, Algeria and Dubai, but Libya and Tunisia could also be considered.

Dr Patt said starting such a scheme would not be all plain sailing. There would probably be opposition from local communities across Europe unhappy about transmission cables installed near their homes. Piecemeal national transmission networks could also pose a big problem.

Big new power Deal for island

Hobart Mercury
Friday 13/3/2009 Page: 10

Deal IslandA TASMANIAN company will power remote Deal Island in Bass Strait with solar panels, provide lightning protection and even a weather station connection for mariners. The dramatic site northwest of Flinders Island is home to one of Australia's most important heritage lighthouses and a tiny population of volunteer caretakers.

The Powercom Group, based at Kingston, won the Parks and Wildlife Service tender for the energy-efficient power supply. Its specialists in power, communications and electronic systems engineering have built remote area power systems in some of the most difficult places on the planet in Australia, the Pacific, Asia and Africa.

Group sales manager Damien Virieux said little Deal Island offered some big challenges. "The key challenges were the logistics because of its remote location," Mr Virieux said. "What helped us was our experience in the Pacific islands doing similar jobs, everything down to making your own concrete. We have to make sure every nut and bolt is there. You can't just duck down to Bunnings."

Original thinking

Summaries - Australian Financial Review
Friday 13/3/2009 Page: 18

Top executives at Origin Energy have always engaged in rigorous internal debate about their business, not least when considering a takeover offer from BG Group last year, and that looks set to continue with a number of acquisitions in the pipeline, according to experts. Grant King, Origin Energy's managing director said the debate among the firm's hierarchy, including chief operating officer Karen Moses - formerly of Esso and BP, chief financial officer Frank Calabria, chairman Kevin McCann and chief executive of its New Zealand utility, Contact Energy, David Baldwin, is crucial to its success.

BG Group's bid came as Origin Energy set about tapping Queensland's rich coal seam gas resources and Mr King initially recommended it to Origin Energy's board but performed a U-turn 36 hours later after Santos and Petronas struck a deal and set a price for coal seam gas resources. His decision proved correct when he announced a deal with ConocoPhillips which valued Origin Energy's coal seam gas assets at $19.6 billion - far more than BG Group had valued them at.

Analysts say Origin Energy's future continues to look bright with more than three million customers using its energy and ownership of four power stations including in Mortlake in Victoria, Spring Gully in Queensland. It also has investments in renewable energy sources.

Battery charging cut to seconds

Friday 13/3/2009 Page: 3

THE days of waiting hours to charge a mobile phone or laptop computer could soon be over because of research that could transform battery technology in as little as two years. US scientists have invented a battery that can charge in seconds, promising a revolution in power storage that could also help green cars and renewable energy. The advance allows lithium-ion batteries, the standard variety used in consumer electronics and cells for electric or hybrid vehicles, both to charge and discharge stored energy faster than at present.

This should lead to smaller, lighter batteries for mobile phones and other devices, which can be fully charged when plugged in for a few seconds. The researchers, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have already made a small prototype cell that charges fully in 10 to 20 seconds, compared with six minutes for cells made in the standard way.

Gerbrand Ceder, professor of materials science and engineering at MIT, who led the research, said: "If you can charge your phone in 30 seconds, that becomes a life changer. It could change the way we think about technology like this: you would literally be able to charge up while you stand and wait." The technology has been nicknamed the "beltway battery", after the orbital motorway in Washington DC, because it uses a bypass system to let lithium-ions that carry charge to enter and leave the battery quicker.

As it involved a new approach to manufacturing lithium-ion battery materials, rather than a new material, it could be ready within two to three years, the researchers said. Electric car batteries may be able to charge in less than an hour, removing one of the main barriers to wider uptake of the vehicles. Solar and wind energy generation could also benefit, as better batteries could be used to store surplus energy.