Thursday 26 March 2009

Geothermal explorer sets Penola dig date

Adelaide Advertiser
Wednesday 25/3/2009 Page: 60

ENERGY explorer Panax Geothermal expects to produce clean, base-load electricity from its future Penola power plant for $63 a MW hour - equal to a gas-fired plant. Federal Government incentives for renewable energy production would reduce costs to about $13/MWh once it scaled up power production from 2015, managing director Bertus de Graaf said yesterday.

"These projected costs are highly competitive with other renewable forms of power generation such as wind or solar thermal, and are on par with gas-fired power generation but without the carbon dioxide emissions and associated penalties," he said.

Credit Suisse research estimates wind and solar projects cost $107/MWh. Gas-fired power generation is $62/MWh, while black coal power production costs are $55/MWh. Dr de Graaf was confident the company would gain a $7 million Federal Government geothermal drilling program grant towards costs to drill its first production well in October.

The well would access steam heated by hot rocks from a reservoir 3.5km underground, to power a 4.5MW demonstration plant - expected to be connected to the national electricity grid by 2011. The company's target is for three production wells to increase power production to 13.5MW from 2013 and 10 wells for a 45MW plant, costing $63/MWh, by 2015.

Dr de Graaf said the Penola tenement had Australia's largest measured resource of geothermal energy and had the advantage of being closer to the national grid than rival Cooper Basin explorer GeoDynamics - the company he formerly headed. "Our measured resource has been determined to be 11,000 petajoules, which in theory is sufficient for 1100MW - almost half of Adelaide's daily consumption," he said.

Panax had been in informal talks with power providers about purchasing future electricity but the company "had the luxury" of waiting for an optimum deal, Dr de Graaf said. "We have the luxury of waiting a bit. We're not desperate to do a deal for the sake of staying alive," he said.

Mineral Resources Development Minister Paul Holloway said Panax had potential to make a meaningful contribution to clean, base-load power supply. Panax shares closed 17% higher - up 1.6c to 11c.

New gas concern

Wednesday 25/3/2009 Page: 2

SCIENTISTS have for the first time measured the rapid growth of two new greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, including one that is a direct result of our love of flatscreen TVs. Nitrogen trifluoride is used during the manufacture of sophisticated electronic circuitry, particularly liquid-crystal flat screens.

According to a scientific paper to be presented today, it is making its presence felt more quickly than previously thought, with emissions growing at 11% a year. CSIRO chief research scientist Paul Fraser said nitrogen trifluoride was 17,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Also growing rapidly in the atmosphere is sulfuryl fluoride, a toxic chemical used in fumigation.

School solar grants rip-off - State accused of skimming fees

Daily Telegraph
Wednesday 25/3/2009 Page: 17

THE State Government has been accused of trying to rip off its own schools by skimming millions of dollars off federal grants through ''management fees". Schools were encouraged to apply directly to the Federal Government for a one-off $50,000 grant to buy solar panels and rainwater tanks under its National Solar Schools Program.

The Rees Government forced its schools to go through its procurement system, a decision that allows it to charge a 2.5% management fee for doing what schools could have done themselves. The Government will also keep the lucrative renewable energy certificates that come with buying solar panels and could have been worth $1800 to each school. "You have to hand it to the Rees Government they know how to get their cut," Opposition MP Michael Richardson said. "It's there in the tine print in black and white in the contract.

They can't deny they were going to be doing this." Details of the fee are outlined in the 544-page contract for suppliers on the Department of Commerce's tendering website. Contractors were also warned in the paperwork that the management fee "will not under any circumstances be shown as a separate charge in any quote or invoice to a customer".

Yesterday the State Government said it had never intended to charge the fee and that its own contract was apparently wrong. "The request for tender documentation should not have referred to a 2.5% fee," a spokeswoman for Commerce Minister Carmel Tebbutt said. The Department of Commerce will ensure tenderers are aware the fee has been waived."

However, school principals say it is these "management fees" that usually add almost 30% to maintenance costs. "They are always skimming money off the top. That's why they make all the schools go through their maintenance contractors, so they can get their management fee on top," Public Schools Principals Forum chairwoman Cheryl McBride said.

"I applied for the grant a year ago and had contractors come out and quote and then a memo came out from the Director-General saying they wanted us to go through together and get a better deal. I still don't have solar panels. "I'm sure someone gets a better deal with these things but it's not the schools in the long term." A spokeswoman for Education Minister Verity Firth said the Government intended to return the value of the renewable energy certificates to schools.

Sun powers big savings

Hobart Mercury
Wednesday 25/3/2009 Page: 9

THE sun that sparkles on the roofs of Swansea will soon help deliver clean electric power to the East Coast town after the community banded together to make the most of a federal solar rebate. About 40 of the town's residents have combined to organise a bulk installation of solar systems before the $8000 rebate ends in the middle of the year.

Organiser David Tucker said the idea had taken root quickly and attracted a lot of interest at a meeting on Monday night. "A small group of us started shopping about to see what sort of a deal we could come up with for some bulk installations in the community," he said.

"When we started, we had a target of 20. We've got 46 interested already. It's been growing every day. As we speak, there are people ringing up wanting to know more about it." He said that for an initial outlay of $3000 to $4000, residents would be able to take a big bite out of their power bills and do something for the environment. "They reduce your power bill.

On the average household, a 1kW system will reduce your power bill by roughly a quarter. So it covers one of your power bills a year," he said. He hoped the first of the installations would be operating by June. Jessups Retravision managing director John Thirgood. who will supply the solar systems, said the renewable energy side of his business had grown rapidly by helping business and residents slash their power costs by up to 70% .

"Tasmania should be the leading solar state. The panels stay cooler and work better here. Tasmania is a very good climate. We don't have overcast weather or tropical stomps like, say, Queensland." he said, "It's cool sunlight, if you like, with high-performance outcomes on solar. People think in Tassie you won't quite get the benefit but it's not true." He praised the people of Swansea for taking the initiative.

"What they wanted was to make a statement as a community and make an impact environmentally and generate power back to the grid," he said. Sustainable Living Tasmania executive officer Margaret Stedman said interest in solar energy installations was at an all-time high. A meeting at South Hobart on Monday night attracted 150 people interested in a similar approach to the Swansea scheme.

"The interest is huge," she said. "I think it's evidence of how interested and concerned people are about doing what they can around climate change and shifting to the new world." She said it was equally important for householders to take energy efficiency measures. such as installing good insulation and stopping drafts.

Under the Federal Government's Solar Homes and Communities Plan, 22,700 solar systems had been installed nationwide by the end of February, taking peak solar generating capacity installed nationwide since 2000 to 31 MWs. Almost 400 systems have been installed so far under the scheme in Tasmania.

Wednesday 25 March 2009

Thermal imaging sheds new light on energy

Adelaide Advertiser
Tuesday 24/3/2009 Page: 40

ENERGY audits of buildings are becoming increasingly popular as more companies look to establish their green credentials and save money at the same time. Many of the current auditors use simplistic methods to establish energy efficiency, but innovative new uses of technology can provide information about energy savings that is not apparent to the naked eye.

Adelaide-based Thermoview, which uses thermal imaging technology, previously specialised in finding safety flaws in electrical equipment. But the company has now identified a range of new applications for thermal imaging that can help clients become more energy efficient.

General manager Peter Erskine says the company is receiving a growing number of inquiries from businesses hoping to improve energy efficiency. "There's a lot of talk about sustainability and people are wondering how they can achieve this," he said. "Thermography can play a real role in identifying the issues." Recently, the company has turned its attention to assessing ceiling insulation.

By taking a picture with a thermal imaging camera, areas where heat is escaping can be easily identified. "Thermography can identify exactly how effective insulation is," Mr Erskine said. Thermoview has also found other ways to use thermal imaging to solve environmental issues. The company is working with the Waite Aboretum to monitor sap flow and assess the health of significant trees during the drought.

The thermal cameras can detect the temperature differences between parts of a tree that are hydrated and parts that are not. The technology is being used in a similar way by vineyards to assess the success of irrigation systems and the water content of grapes.

Grid must be more switched-on

Summaries - Australian Financial Review
Tuesday 24/3/2009 Page: 31

The Australian Energy Regulator will next month hand down a decision on the smart grid plan proposed by Country Energy. CSIRO research shows 2.7 million jobs can be created by 2025 if Australia commits to 2050 carbon neutral target. A national framework on smart meters is being developed by the Ministerial Council on Energy.

IBM and the Australian Information Industry Association are pushing for more funding in smart energy projects. IBM Australia's Glen Boreham said Australia risks falling behind other countries in green-collar employment. The Federal Government rebates on solar panels has led to a surge in uptake, but Country Energy executive Col Ussher said renewable energy can cause additional work on utilities and create problems with its intermittent nature.

An intelligent smart grid network with real-time data collection capabilities will allow faults to be detected more quickly.

Lock in trading scheme, says Garnaut

Tuesday 24/3/2009 Page: 2

FORMER government climate adviser Ross Garnaut has warned that defeat of the emissions trading scheme in the Senate would have global implications, hampering a post - Kyoto deal to cut greenhouse gases. Professor Garnaut yesterday maintained his strong criticisms of the Government's scheme, but said that regardless of its failings it was important to lock it in this year.

He said rejection of the scheme by the Parliament would be noticed in the US, which is now deciding whether to introduce its own scheme, and would raise doubts internationally about Australia's ability to help cut emissions.

Conversely, he said, passing even a flawed scheme would signal Australia was meeting its commitments and would help build momentum for a new deal at a UN meeting in Copenhagen in December. In Australia, defeat of the legislation would leave a policy vacuum likely to be filled by a host of more expensive and less effective policies.

"To delay introduction of the scheme altogether until it was needed to secure large reductions in emissions would carry high risks," he told the Greenhouse' 09 conference in Perth. "Time is required to iron out inevitable imperfections." Professor Garnaut repeated previous criticisms of the Government's model, saying the national interest would be best served by deeper greenhouse cuts than the Government's proposed 2020 target of 5% to 15% .

He called for a soft start under which industry would buy emissions permits at a fixed price during the first two years. Professor Garnaut also warned against countries attaching carbon tariffs to products from nations that do not act to tackle climate change.

US Energy Secretary Steven Chu has backed carbon import duties, an idea previously supported in the US Congress. Climate Change Minister Penny Wong told the conference the Government would spend $20 million to help Pacific islands and East Timor to research the local impacts of climate change.

Carbon trading test drive

Adelaide Advertiser
Tuesday 24/3/2009 Page: 38

AUSTRALIAN businesses will get a chance to test drive the Federal Government's carbon pollution reduction scheme in May, through KPMG's new auction simulation program. A national pool of up to 100 participants will buy and sell "dummy" permits based on their actual emissions under the Carbon Permit Auction Simulation program, to test their readiness ahead of the proposed rollout of the scheme next year.

KPMG, which has held such programs in the UK, will hold three half-day auctions over the program's six months and offer participants anonymity. There will be a cap on the number of permits auctioned off and the price of the permits will be demand driven. For the Australian market, the simulation includes trading forestry/carbon offsets.

KPMG claims the program is the first of its kind in Australia and expects strong participation from companies already monitoring their emissions. The main driver was to get companies to understand the "complicated" "learn-by-doing" fashion, KPMG director Nick Wood said.

"Emissions trading is not about the auction alone; it's a long-term emissions strategy," Mr Wood said. "The internal structure of organisations will determine carbon action." The simulation will help businesses consolidate and field-test emissions data collection systems and procedures, bring in a disciplined approach to managing greenhouse gas emissions and price-test carbon reduction strategies.

Each participant will receive a report and performance feedback at the end of the exercise. Mr Wood, who is managing his fourth emission scheme, said the challenge for companies would be enormous. They would need to integrate the functions of finance, production/engineering, environment management and trading into one operational unit with its own management structure. So far, KPMG has received good cross-sector representation, including from the power industry and states.

Tuesday 24 March 2009

Revamped BBW finds its second wind

Sydney Morning Herald
Monday 23/3/2009 Page: 19

THE listed wind energy offshoot of Babcock and Brown will focus its future operations in Australia and the US as it prepares to sever its final connections with its now-failed former parent.

The move to concentrate on just two markets - considered to be relatively "young" in the field of renewable energy - will see the soon-to-be renamed Babcock and Brown Wind Partners sell its remaining European windfarm and development rights in Germany and France over the next 12 to 18 months. It will cap a withdrawal from Europe that began last year with the double disposals of its portfolio of windfarms in Spain and its Enersis interests in Portugal.

Those sales in August and November generated a $250 million-plus profit from the Spanish assets and a $12 million loss on the Portuguese interests, which enabled BBW to pay down debt and bolster its cash reserves as part of the gradual untangling of its links with B&B.

Spun off as an ASX-quoted managed fund from the B&B empire in 2005, BBW provided an important source of revenue for its one-time parent through management and performance fees. It also functioned as a depository for the group to house burgeoning windfarm assets and development rights that it had acquired and held on its own balance sheet.

But with investors raising increased concerns about the independence of BBW and B&B's hold on the fund through a restrictive management rights agreement, the wind energy operator began standing up to the parent in November 2007 when it refused to acquire certain assets offered to it. It also became one of the first B&B offshoots to seek and subsequently secure control over its own management - a deal which saw it pay $40 million to B&B for the separation rights before the former sharemarket darling went into administration just over a week ago.

It has also terminated two framework agreements - the long-standing Gamesa and Plambeck deals - whereby it would take further European windfarm interests from B&B in preparation for its final pull-out from the highly competitive continental market. This is now dominated by local listed offshoots of three huge state owned utility companies.

However, BBW's chief executive, Miles George, insists that the fund is neither a distressed seller nor one that needs to dispose of the assets quickly, preferring to wait for a recovery in prices to firm before actively putting their on the market next year. ''If somebody made an attractive offer for their in the next 12 to 18 months we would probably sell them," he said.

BBW, which will ditch its current name for a completely new one in the next few weeks as part of its new-found independence, believes the buyback of its securities - trading at 84c - offers better short-term value in boosting its rate of return than investing in what it regards as a relatively mature market in Europe. The fund has found itself increasingly squeezed further by state-backed players which can access capital to expand at much cheaper rates than itself given the high cost of debt on international credit markets.

Both Australia, where BBW claims market leadership against one major challenger AGL Energy, and America,where it is ranked fourth, offer better long-term opportunities in terms of picking up existing or new windfarms and in particular the development rights to build future sites, according to Mr George.

Appointed the company's in-house managing director on January 1 as part of transfer of management rights from B&B, Mr George was previously BBW's managing director but was employed by the bigger group as part of the services it provided to the "baby Babcock". Having taken on a development team in Australia to target possible windfarm sites here, BBW is looking to do the same thing in the US.

Mr George hopes that the moves now being taken by the wind energy company will see a gradual revival in the presence of Australian institutional investors on its share register. Having had 50% of its stock owned by domestic fund managers at its IPO four years ago, that has since fallen to just 15% as B&B's all-embracing hold on the fund overshadowed its nascent desire for more independence and its different business model.

Unlike other B&B offshoots, BBW paid its distributions out of available cash flow, not debt. "There's always some luck involved in business, but a lot of the position we find ourselves in is ... due to actions we have taken over the last two years as well as some luck," Mr George said.

Time to achieve our 6 degrees of separation

Monday 23/3/2009 Page: 22

If the planet is like an oven, it's still possible to turn down the temperature, writes Barry Brook.

The number is 300 and the methods will be extraordinary. In 2007, a climate awareness campaign was launched by well-known environmental author Bill McKibben. It was coined, with the slogan "350 is the most important number on the planet".

The figure refers to a target concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the Earth's atmosphere, in parts per million (ppm). This number was drawn from a recent study by a team of climate scientists, led by NASA's Dr James Hansen. They showed that when longterm changes brought about by climate change are considered, the total global warming expected from a doubling of CO2 is about six degrees.

This is clearly of great concern, because even two degrees of warming could trigger irreversible melting of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets and a rise in sea levels, a large expansion of tropical zones leading to persistent droughts in the mid latitudes (including southern Australia), and longer, hotter, more frequent heatwaves and associated hazards, such as bushfires. At anywhere approaching six degrees, it's a completely transformed planet - a world hostile to most species.

So if we expect six degrees of planetary heating with a doubling of CO2 from 280 to 560 ppm, then the only way to avoid gong over two degrees is to limit the rise of CO2 to about 350 ppm. Hence the slogan. An obvious problem with this goal is that we are already over 350 - and skyrocketing. Current levels stand at 385 ppm and are rising about 2 ppm each year, due to industrial emissions (burning of coal, oil and gas) and land-use changes (deforestation).

Even without further acceleration in fossil fuel use, this would take us to 470 ppm by 2050. Yet global energy demand is expected to double by then and progressively less CO2 is being taken up by natural systems, as "carbon sinks" become saturated. So the hard reality is that we could be looking at 530 ppm by 2050 and a lot more in the following decades. But there is another, more surprising, problem with 350. It's the wrong number.

While 350 ppm should give us a reasonable shot at avoiding more than two degrees of warming, that's hardly a safe future to be aiming for. We need only to look at the impacts at less than one degree to know we're already committed to some tough adaptation problems. These include more intense heatwaves, the rapid fall in Arctic summer sea ice, ongoing drought in Australia, sub - Saharan Africa and the western US, and the swift retreat of river-feeding mountain glaciers.

A target of 300 to 325 ppm CO2 - the levels of the 1950s - is necessary if we wish to cut additional warming and start to roll back the already damaging impacts. As such, 350 is not a target, it's a signpost to a goal.

So we're aiming at 350 but the real goal is 300 and we're already at 385. Do we give up? No. Think of it this way, if you turned your oven up to 180 degrees, left the thermostat on that setting for a few minutes then turned it back down, how hot would it be inside the oven? Hotter than before you turned on the gas, certainly, but it wouldn't be close to 180. Because of inertia in the internal air and surface metals, it takes time to heat the oven.

If you turn back that source of energy, the temperature drops again and never reaches the thermostat reading you had set. So, too, with climate change. It takes time to heat the oceans and to melt ice. There are lags because of the amount of energy input it takes to heat these massive systems. If you turn back the source of heat - that is, reduce the amount of greenhouse gases trapping solar energy at the Earth's surface - then you can prevent some of the warming you might otherwise have expected.

However, the higher we turn up the thermostat (that is, the more CO2 we release) and the longer we leave the oven on (time we take to cut emissions to zero), the closer the oven (Earth) is going to get to its final, thermostat-rated temperature (six degrees for a doubling of CO2). Returning to 300 is possible but the actions required will be extraordinary. An emergency mode is needed, the likes of which we have not seen since World War II.

All the zero-carbon energy cards will need to be on the table - primarily advanced nuclear energy but also renewables and geothermal sources and energy efficiency. We will need ways to pill extra CO2 out of the air through geological, chemical or biological engineering. The response must be global and the solutions trust work for all nations. Anything less and the thermostat will be set too high for too long. That'll leave a future none of its will care to live in.

Barry Brook is Sir Hubert Wilkins chair of climate change and director of Climate change and director of climate science at the University of Adelaide's environment Institute.

He runs a blog at

State emission cuts `futile'

Monday 23/3/2009 Page: 1

VICTORIA'S climate policies will make no difference to achieving Australia's greenhouse emissions targets and will simply subsidise big industrial polluters, according to a State Government assessment.

A high-level ministerial brief, obtained by TheAge, advises the Brumby Government to rethink policies and programs, including subsidies for solar farms and panels and a shift to a hybrid car fleet, arguing that they will not contribute to any additional greenhouse gas cuts under Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's proposed carbon pollution reduction scheme (CPRS).

The leaked brief reignites debate over the environmental benefits of billions of dollars in green outlays by households and government, from an individual choosing to spend more for an energy-efficient refrigerator, through to Mr Rudd's $3.9 billion for insulating hones as part of his economic stimulus package.

It adds weight to warnings by some economists and environmentalists that voluntary green actions outside the limited industrial scope of the CPRS will simply ease the pressure on big polluters to cut emissions, and save them money. The confidential ministerial brief advises the State Government that it should now only bother with green pleasures if they are more cost effective than alternatives. Concern about the role of voluntary action emerged last year as the shape of Labor's carbon-cutting strategy became clear.

Critics as diverse the federal Opposition, the Australian Consumers Association and left leaning think tank the Australia Institute, have complained that actions such as the purchase of GreenPower, installing solar panels on roofs, and even catching public transport, would not achieve any additional emissions savings beyond the Federal Government's much criticised greenhouse targets.

This is because the scheme, scheduled for introduction in 2010 if it can get through the Senate impasse, would put a legally binding "cap" or limit on emissions and emission cuts. In practice, Labor's plan to reduce Australia's carbon pollution by between 5 and 15% by 2020 means that any voluntary efforts to cut emissions will only reduce the price of permits to pollute, not actually achieve additional cuts. That criticism is also repeated in the State Government ministerial brief.

The leaked report adds clarity to a debate dogged by political spin. It is at odds with some comments by Climate Change Minister Penny Wong, who has denied that voluntary actions will be a subsidy to big polluters under the CPRS. Not surprisingly, Labor states have been careful in their response to questions about their federal colleagues' climate change strategy.

But The Age believes there is frustration among the states about the failure of the CPRS to take account of government and household efforts to cut carbon. Australia Institute executive director Richard Denniss said the leaked State Government brief had come as no surprise. "The harder households work. the harder the Melbourne or Sydney city councils work, or the harder the state governments work to cut emissions, the less the big polluters have to work," he said.

Dr Denniss is pushing for changes to the proposed CPRS so that government and household carbon emission savings are counted and the number of pollution permits made available to industry is reduced accordingly. He called on state governments to demand that the Commonwealth fix what he said were clear flaws in the scheme. This month the Victorian Government announced it would spend $100 million on a new regional solar plant if matched by federal money.

While not referring specifically to the grant, the leaked brief says that spending on solar farms is a waste of money if it is intended to contribute to cutting emissions. Victorian Environment Minister Gavin Jennings did not answer specific questions about the impact of the CPRS on initiatives such as solar grants, feed-in tariffs, or mandatory energy ratings for new homes.

"While the CPRS will be the main driver of emissions abatement, the (yet to be released) Green Paper will outline the role for the Victorian Government in driving innovation and the development of low carbon industries to make Victoria a leading green economy," said spokesman Nick Talbot.

"The Victorian Government will also continue to play a key role in helping households, communities and businesses adapt to climate change and the associated risks, including more extreme weather and greater fire risk." Senator Wong did not respond in time for publication.

Wind farms power on

Independent Weekly
Friday 20/3/2009 Page: 14

The collapse of Babcock and Brown is not expected to have any major or immediate impact on South Australian assets owned by associated companies. The investment giant was placed into voluntary administration last Friday after a proposed debt restructure was rejected by investors. It owes about $3.2 billion in interest-bearing debt to local and international banks.

Babcock and Brown Wind Partners (BBW), which owns the Lake Bonney Windfarm near Millicent, still shares part of its name with the beleaguered business, but has already cut most ties with B&B. "BBW does not expect that the appointment announced by Babcock and Brown will have any material impact on the business, interests or assets of BBW," it said in a statement to the stock exchange after the finance company called in the administrators.

BBW's Lake Bonney Windfarm was officially opened by Premier Mike Rann in 2005 and has since been extended with two further stages to bring its total capacity to 240 MWs.

Rosalie Duff, head of investor relations and media for BBW, said its separation from the company began some time ago and was already well advanced. The company ended its management agreements with Babcock and Brown in December last year, and Ms Duff said its financing arrangements were "completely independent". "We are in a period where we are looking to change our name and move premises," she said.

BBW CEO Miles George also told the ABC's Lateline Business program last Friday that the new name would not include the words "Babcock and Brown". Most Babcock and Brown satellite companies have moved quickly to distance themselves from its collapse.

One of the most vulnerable is considered to be Babcock and Brown Power (BBP), which owns two coal-fired power stations at Port Augusta and the Leigh Creek coalfield. B&B owns a 9% stake in the B&B Power, which owes around $381 million to the parent company. However, BBP said the loans were on "commercial arm's-length terms" with subsidiaries of B&B, and there was no requirement to repay them upon the appointment of a voluntary administrator.

"BBP will closely monitor the situation but does not currently expect there to be any direct impact on the ongoing operations," it said in a statement. Meanwhile, administrators of Babcock and Brown have begun their investigations into the demise of a company that at its height in mid-2007 was worth $13.2 billion.

One of the key people it will be speaking to is former CEO Phil Green, who is already believed to be plotting his comeback. According to Fairfax newspapers, reports are circulating in Sydney that Mr Green plans to start afresh with a new deal-making venture - however, his unnamed financial backer has reportedly already got cold feet.

Green power solution at hand for little cost: experts

Sydney Morning Herald
Friday 20/3/2009 Page: 2

AUSTRALIA could build a lowcarbon economy based on solar, wind and geothermal power by the middle of the century for less than half the cost of the Federal Government's economic stimulus package, says a report commissioned by WWF Australia.

As Earth Hour approaches, the event's organiser, WWF, is trying to shift debate back to what it sees as the modest cost of turning Australia into a society based on renewable power. Many industry groups argue that moving away from cheap fossil fuel energy would damage manufacturing and employment.

The WWF-commissioned report calculates the price for transforming the nation's energy base, using technology that exists, would be $28 billion between 2010 and 2050 - less than half the Government's stimulus handout, but spread over 40 years. It was prepared by Climate Risk, a corporate analyst that advises the federal and local governments and businesses on climate modelling.

It shows that a transition to renewable power is affordable, but that the proposed carbon trading scheme and renewable energy target could not achieve it. Extra government investment in energy of about $100 million a year from 2010 would be enough to make solar, wind and geothermal power dominant in the electricity and manufacturing sectors by the middle of the century.

One of the authors, Dr Karl Mallon, said: "What we're trying to do is look past the current debate and take a nuts-and-bolts view, an industry and engineering approach, on what we would have to build and how it could be paid for.

"We're talking about building new electricity generation on the scale of new Snowy hydro schemes, which create lots of jobs but need very firm government direction. The market would never have built a Snowy scheme because of the investment risk." Paul Toni of WWF Australia said: "Earth Hour shows that millions of Australians want this government to act to battle climate change. This report shows they can.'' Earth Hour, which is supported by Fairfax Media, publisher of the Herald, is supported by 217 towns and cities in Australia.

The WWF says hundreds of millions of people around the world will turn off lights and appliances on Saturday week to show support for action against climate change.

Green trade war a threat

Friday 20/3/2009 Page: 1

FEARS are rising of a global green trade war if Copenhagen climate change talks fail, after US Energy Secretary Stephen Chu suggested the Obama administration would consider "carbon tariffs" against countries that had not put a cost on pollution when the US introduced its emissions trading regime. "If other countries don't impose a cost on carbon, then we will be at a disadvantage .. . (and) we would look at considering perhaps duties that would offset that cost," Mr Chu told a house science panel.

Mr Chu said a carbon tariff would help "level the playing field" if other countries hadn't put a cost on carbon when a US emission trading regime came in. Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said protectionist carbon tariffs could be "very costly for a small, open economy like Australia" and would in any event be very difficult to administer. "However, we do need to be aware of the potential for unilateral and protectionist action, ostensibly in pursuit of climate goals," Senator Wong said.

"There are live proposals for border tariffs in a range of major economies. This reminds us there are international risks from not acting responsibly to reduce our carbon pollution in Australia." Both industry and environmental groups agreed the rising threat of "green protectionism" made success at the UN negotiations in Copenhagen in December critical.

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Peter Anderson said: The rise of green tariffs would be a nightmare scenario for Australia. We would lose, and lose badly, in a green trade war." Mr Anderson said the threat made Australia's proposed free permit compensation for trade exposed industries "all the more important". Australian Conservation Foundation chief executive Don Henry said the country's proposed industry compensation was "encouraging the protectionist tendencies in other nations".

The debate over green protectionism came as The Climate Institute Australia think-tank claimed major Australian corporations had been "loose with the truth" because they had protested at the allegedly crippling cost of emissions trading while failing to implement relatively inexpensive energy efficiency measures that could save them between $28 million and $62 million a year.

Analysing figures the companies must supply under a law enacted by the Howard government, the Climate Institute Australia has calculated that 20 of Australia's biggest polluters had identified, but not implemented, energy efficiency measures that could reduce emissions by 1.2 million tonnes a year.

That means that under an emissions trading scheme, the measures could save the companies $28 million a year at a low $23 a tonne carbon price. BlueScope Steel could save at least $6 million a year, according to the calculations. Analysis by Innovest late last year revealed BlueScope would receive more than $170 million in government compensation in the scheme's first year in 2010.

BHP Billiton could save $3.8 million a year and Rio Tinto $3.7 million. Alcoa, whose jobs loss claims were used by the Opposition in its political attack on the ETS, could save $3.7 million a year. Xstrata, which has claimed 1000 job losses, did not provide enough information under the mandatory reporting scheme to be included in the analysis.

The Business Council of Australia, one of the few leading business groups that has not called for the ETS to be delayed, said businesses were deferring decisions on energy-efficient investments because of the lack of certainty about national climate change policy.

In the meantime, a Labor dominated parliamentary committee has insisted the Government should toughen its emission reduction targets. The joint standing committee on treaties, chaired by Labor backbencher Kelvin Thomson, called for Labor to abandon its target of a 60% reduction by 2050 in favour of an 80% reduction.

Senator Wong repeated the Government's promise to seek a mandate for a tougher target at the next election if Copenhagen came up with an ambitious international goal. In Australia, the cement industry, the food and grocery industry and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union have expressed support tot a carbon tariff on imports.

Revamp for solar car race

Adelaide Advertiser
Friday 20/3/2009 Page: 2

ONE of the world's major solar-car races will be an even bigger showcase of environmentally friendly vehicles. The Global Green Car Challenge is a revamped event of the World Solar Car Challenge, which in the past 21 years has featured solar energyed vehicles in a 3000km drive from Darwin to Adelaide to showcase alternative, emission-free transport.

The event was launched yesterday amid the first day of the Clipsal 500 by Premier Mike Rann and the SA Motorsport Board. To run in October, the challenge has been broadened to include more alternative, environmentally friendly fuel types, including hybrid, electric, solar, low-emission and alternative energy vehicles. "This is a major advance on the Solar Car Challenge, this event will be an evolution of that," Mr Rann said. "The Global Green Challenge will be open to a whole range of innovations in alternative and low-emission fuel sources."

Monday 23 March 2009

US mulls first proposals for national GHG reporting
11 March, 2009

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its proposal for mandatory reporting of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions yesterday, setting in train a crucial underpinning of any carbon cap-and-trade system.

The proposals would require around 13,000 facilities, responsible for about 80-90% of US GHG emissions, to begin reporting from 2010. Among those required to report their GHG emissions, if the proposals are adopted, would be:
  • facilities that directly emit 25,000 or more tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year, including electricity generators and producers of cement, steel and iron;
  • manufacturers of motor vehicles and engines; and
  • suppliers of fossil fuel and industrial chemicals.
Those affected would be required to report emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, sulphur hexafluoride, and other fluorinated gases, including nitrogen trifluoride and hydrofluorinated ethers. EPA administrator Lisa Jackson said: "Our efforts to confront climate change must be guided by the best possible information."

Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, said: "A GHG registry provides the foundation for building a successful and transparent federal programme to reduce emissions and protect the climate."

She added: "Just as the EU learned in the trial period of its emissions trading system, accurate and comprehensive emissions accounting is key to the successful start-up of a cap-and-trade programme. A well-designed national GHG registry will ensure comprehensive emissions reporting and put the US on the right path toward an effective climate policy."

Prices plummeted in Phase I of the EU emissions trading scheme after it emerged that there were more than enough allowances in the system to cover emissions. If adopted, the EPA expects a first 'annual report' to be produced in 2011, covering 2010 emissions, apart from vehicle and engine manufacturers, which would begin reporting in 2011.

The EPA envisages that reporting would mostly be carried out at the facility level, with some exceptions – such as vehicle manufacturers and suppliers – which would report at corporate level. The total cost of instituting the reporting system would be $168 million in its first year, the EPA said, falling to $134 million in subsequent years. Around 95% of the cost is expected to fall on the private sector.

Jackson said: "Through this new reporting, we will have comprehensive and accurate data about the production of greenhouse gases. This is a critical step towards helping us better protect our health and environment – all without placing an onerous burden on our nation's small businesses."

The proposals are open for public comment for 60 days. The EPA will hold two open meetings in April, in Virginia and California. Details are available on its website.

Low-carbon economy worth £3 trillion – UK government
London, 12 March:

The global low-carbon and environmental sector was worth £3 trillion ($4.1 trillion) last year, according to research commissioned by the UK government.

The UK is the sixth-largest economy for low-carbon and environmental goods and services (LCEGS), such as renewable energy, nuclear energy and recycling, analysts Innovas found, in market research carried out for the country's Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform.

The sector's turnover was £107 billion in the UK in 2007/8, midway between the size of the country's healthcare and construction sectors, and was responsible for 880,000 jobs. Innovas predicts it will grow by another £45 billion in the next decade. The total UK economy was worth £1,600 billion in 2007/8.

The report breaks down the LCEGS sector into three parts: traditional environmental services, such as recycling, and water and waste management; renewables, such as wind, hydropower and biomass; and 'emerging low carbon', including nuclear energy, carbon finance and building technologies.

Worldwide, Innovas found that low-carbon businesses account for nearly half of the market value of the LCEGS sector, or £1,449 billion. Renewable energy accounts for another 31%, or £940 billion, with traditional environmental activities making up the final 21%, or £657 billion.

The biggest slice of the LCEGS pie is in Asia, which represents 38% of the global total, followed by the Americas, with 30% and Europe with 27%. However, LCEGS are worth worth £629 billion to the US economy, giving it the biggest market share of the emerging sector of any country. China comes in second, with £411 billion of LCEGS.

The research was published at the launch of the government's proposed Low-Carbon Business Strategy, intended to guide UK efforts to take advantage of the opportunities presented by low-carbon and other environmental industries.

Speaking at the launch, UK Business Secretary Peter Mandelson said: "Low carbon is not a sector of our economy, it is, or will be, our whole economy, and a global market." The proposals aim to create a "step change" in four key areas: increasing energy efficiency; putting in place the energy infrastructure for a low-carbon future; the UK's role in developing and producing low-carbon vehicles; and making the UK an attractive place to locate low-carbon businesses.

The UK government has set up an interactive website to engage with business over the plans.

Risking polluted policies

Herald Sun
Thursday 19/3/2009 Page: 66

REVELATIONS this week by climate policy expert Dr Guy Pearse that the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union was the biggest donor to the ALP's 2007 campaign coffers have again raised questions in some circles about the union's influence in Senator Penny Wong's climate change portfolio. Senator Wong was once powerful in the CFMEU's timber workers division.

Sensibly dismissed by the union and Dr Pearse, the theory has re-emerged as the senator's critics continue their struggle to understand how her climate policy could go by the name of a carbon pollution reduction scheme, yet do so little to encourage emissions cuts. The argument goes that the senator's climate policies favour big polluters who employ CFMEU workers, and that these unionists want to preserve the jobs status quo, therefore they are all in bed together.

CFMEU national president Tony Maher told this column yesterday the speculation was a "hopeless joke" and that the union donated "much more" than $700,000 "to make sure the Howard government didn't get back in", not because it wanted to script a Rudd government climate policy. Thanks for clearing that up, Tony.

Meanwhile, Dr Pearse's beef in his Quarterly Essay titled Quarry Vision continues to be the intricate links between big polluter lobbyists and policy makers. In his 2007 book High and Dry, he named and shamed well-paid, well connected lobbyists he said shaped the Howard Government's weak position on climate change.

In his latest critique, he details how the same lobbyists are still working their magic with the Rudd Government, to the detriment of renewable energy opportunities that can create thousands of clean jobs and anchor profits in the Australian economy. He concludes that Senator Wong's policy will aid polluters to continue to belch toxic carbon here and "offset" that pollution by buying cheap carbon credits overseas. Further, the rest of us will pick up the tab as the cost of carbon is distributed through the economy.

The essay could have gone further to reveal that lobbyists for the big polluters have diverted attention from these facts, too:
  • More renewable energy in the grid lowers the average wholesale price of electricity over a year by eliminating the need to fire up expensive gas power plants during peak demand episodes, when coal fired generators break down or are shut down for maintenance.
  • Victoria's biggest coal-fired generators are owned by foreign companies that divert profits they make here to China, Japan and Britain, and still they will qualify for $2.2 billion of aid in the first few years of emissions trading.
  • The national economy now provides the energy and transport sector freebies worth about $10 billion a year, made up of many subsidies including cheap electricity for aluminium smelters and cheap fuel for coal power.
  • Based on a price of $25 a carbon tonne, the emissions trading scheme will next year provide $940 million in free permits to aluminium smelters, $300 million to petroleum refiners, $260 million to steel, $250 million to alumina refiners, $180 million to LNG producers and $160 million to cement makers.
That is another $2 billion of freebies, conceded by other industries, for just one year. Multiply that by many more years and a clearer picture emerges of just how much the rest of the economy is paying to allow polluting industries to maintain business as usual, while stifling innovation.

Mining giant angry over release of `sensitive data'

Thursday 19/3/2009 Page: 9

Xstrata executives are angry over the Opposition's decision to reveal that the global mining giant has threatened to fire 1000 coal miners if emissions trading is implemented. Two sources in the coal industry have told The Age that Xstrata executives did not give permission for the data to be released publicly, saying it is market-sensitive information given in confidence.

Neither Xstrata nor Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull's office would comment directly on the issue yesterday. In Monday's question time in Federal Parliament, Mr Turnbull asked Prime Minister Kevin Rudd about a presentation Xstrata made that claimed it would fire 1000 people, close four mines and stop $7 billion in investment creating 4000 jobs if the Government's trading scheme was implemented.

Xstrata has found a backer in Queensland Premier Anna Bligh, who yesterday expressed support for a coal industry campaign to win further concessions under the Government's trading scheme. But a former industry lobbyist and Liberal Party insider has dismissed Xstrata's claims and said it appeared the company was preparing to blame the Government for job losses caused by a recent huge drop in demand and the plummeting coal price.

Guy Pearse, a consultant who left the Howard government to write an expose of its environment policy, said the proposed emissions trading scheme would have barely any impact on Xstrata. "80% of our coal is sent offshore and the emissions count offshore, not in Australia, so they have almost no carbon liability to worry about," Dr Pearse said.

"It probably helps Xstrata to be able to pin job losses on the Government rather than say they have misread the economic environment and are having to mothball some projects that are no longer viable." Xstrata's coal operations do not qualify for free permits under the Government's proposal. But Dr Pearse said the only emissions Xstrata had to worry about were methane released in the mining process. "In the scheme of things, it would be tiny," he said.

Global energy hub in the city

Adelaide Advertiser
Thursday 19/3/2009 Page: 25

Adelaide will become the logical global centre for renewable energy policy and research after the launch of a new university campus, focusing on energy and resources. University College London yesterday opened its first overseas campus in its 180-year history, making it the highest ranked university to do so. Vice-provost Michael Worton and Santos boss David Knox said the School of Energy and Resources would be pivotal in developing the sector's future skills base.

Professor Worton said the multi-disciplinary school, which will deliver postgraduate degrees from 2010 and professional education courses from August, would strengthen and unite the academic and industry expertise in SA. "The world needs a Davos (the Swiss city which hosts the annual World Economic Forum) of energy policy. There is a vacuum here. The world needs to have a place where we come to talk about energy policy - why not in Adelaide?" he said.

Santos chief executive officer Mr Knox said the collaborative school would be key in helping secure energy supply and a lower carbon future here and in Asia. Premier Mike Rann said the campus was a "perfect fit" for SA's ambition to become the second biggest producer of renewable energy after Denmark.

The school has been set up in partnership with Santos, which has put $10 million towards research, scholarship and the professorial chair. The centre in the Torrens building (with Carnegie Corporation, Mellon University and Cranfield University) will be headed by Curtin University's Professor of Energy Economics Tony Owen.

Smarter, cleaner state by 2015

Adelaide Advertiser
Thursday 19/3/2009 Page: 5

IF the Economic Development Board's recommendations are acted on quickly, South Australians are likely to be living in a smarter, cleaner and more prosperous state in 2015.

Such household expenses as water and electricity could cost more. That would be offset by higher overall incomes as the state shook off its manufacturing linked past and replaced it with hi-tech, mining and clean energy industries. The recommendation to keep infrastructure spending strong, despite the financial crisis, was important.

Most South Australians would not care if the state lost its AAA credit rating temporarily but would care if their infrastructure was crumbling and planned major projects failed to materialise. In 2015, SA would be more multicultural than today if its share of skilled migration was increased as recommended.

Becoming a renewable energy sector leader would tap into our rich endowment of those resources, help battle climate change and increase the number of smart jobs in the state. While focusing on renewable energy might lead to more expensive electricity as generation costs more, that should only be short term as dirtier fossil fuel plants were taxed more heavily.