Thursday 23 April 2009

Greens blast native jarrah eco-power

West Australian
Wednesday 22/4/2009 Page: 19

Conservationists have blasted Griffin Energy as hypocritical over a potential plan to use centuries-old native jarrah trees as fuel for a new "eco-friendly" power plant. Thousands of tonnes of timber could be destined for the new biomass burner at Griffin's $400 million Bluewaters power station near Collie. The company is investigating the feasibility of generating up to 15% of the facility's output from renewable sources such as wood, including non-saw grade jarrah offcuts stockpiled by the Forest Products Commission.

Green groups have slammed the idea, arguing that old-growth jarrah is not a renewable fuel source. Local campaigner Peter Murphy, co-ordinator of the Preston Environment Group, said yesterday that only freshly grown plantation timbers should qualify as renewable fuel because burning them contributed no net carbon to the atmosphere.

Burning jarrah, on the other hand, released carbon stored in the trees for some 300 years - long before the industrial revolution, seen as the "year zero" of greenhouse pollution. That would make jarrah burning a net contributor to carbon pollution, rather than a green fuel.

Mr Murphy said Griffin would even attempt to claim carbon credits under the emissions trading scheme for burning the jarrah logs in a bid to offset emissions from the Bluewater's primary coal-fired power generator. "It sounds very hypocritical that Griffin Energy could obtain carbon credits when it is the resource they're burning that stored the carbon in the first place," he said.

He accused the WA Forest Products Commission of "destroying all the old carbon-storing trees in the forest" and said it was desperate to offload its low-quality timber. He said it would be better from an ecological perspective to leave the trees to decay naturally in the forest, instead of allowing them to be burnt.

Griffin Energy spokesman Cameron Morse said plans for biomass burning were in the early stages and trials of the technology would not begin until later this year. The Forest Products Commission was among the preferred tenders to provide fuel but no contract had been drawn up. FPC harvesting manager Jaron Creasey confirmed that a tender had been submitted but said there was "not an agreement in place at this point".

Green drive must step up a gear

Summaries - Australian Financial Review
Wednesday 22/4/2009 Page: 63

With the world's low carbon and environmental goods and services industry worth over $6 trillion, the United Nations have began a project known as the Global Green New Deal. South Korea has committed 81% of its stimulus package to green initiatives, the European Union has devoted 59% and China, 38% .

Leaders in the United States have proposed an emissions trading scheme with a 2020 reduction that is more stringent than Australia's, allowing them to gain some credibility in time for the UN Copenhagen conference. Australia's $1.3 billion Green Car Innovation Fund is part of its contributions towards energy efficiency, while $1.2 billion has gone to the Australian Rail Track Corporation to improve rail freight and intercity passenger rail.

CSIRO research says that between 2.5 million and 3.3 million jobs could be created over the next 20 years in Australia from 'greening' the economy. (Peter Newman is professor of sustainability at Curtin University, Mike Young is director of the University of Adelaide's Environment Institute and Fiona Wain is the chief executive of Environment Business Australia).

Fuel tax cut a bad move, say greens

Wednesday 22/4/2009 Page: 6

MOTORISTS will get a windfall of at least $150 million a year at the petrol pump under the "cent-for-cent" reduction of fuel taxes in the Government's emissions trading scheme. But the annual petrol subsidy has angered green groups and industry, which say it will encourage motorists to drive more and increase emissions until at least 2025.

In economic work done by the Australian Conservation Foundation, the environmental group found that by using price increases in diesel, which emits more carbon, as the baseline for cutting taxes on petrol, the Government will reduce the price of petrol more than it would normally cost without emissions trading.

The ACF's modelling shows that the subsidy to motorists using petrol will be $150 million a year based on a $20-a-tonne carbon price. That subsidy will increase as the price of carbon rises under a trading scheme. ACF economic adviser Simon O'Connor said yesterday the measure removed the price incentive for motorists to use their cars less and reduce emissions.

A spokesman for Assistant Treasurer Chris Bowen said the additional funding would be paid for with cash raised from the sale carbon permits in the emissions trading scheme and would not add to the budget deficit. The Government has also committed to making cuts to fuel taxes permanent, meaning if the cost of carbon later falls - making fuel cheaper to refine - it will not increase the tax to original levels.

The ACF found an ally for its complaints yesterday in petrol company Caltex, which called for the fuel tax cut to be scrapped. Caltex also wants the transport sector to be removed from emissions trading altogether and replaced with voluntary "complimentary measures". Caltex's government relations manager, Frank Topham, told a Senate committee hearing on climate change in Sydney that, by Caltex's calculation, the fuel tax reduction pleasures meant emissions from cars would rise in the first 15 years of a trading scheme, rather than fall.

Caltex wants a delay to the scheme, scheduled to begin in July 2010, until the end of the global economic crisis and 100% free permits until an international agreement of carbon is reached. Meanwhile, Opposition frontbencher Sussan Ley has written to a member of her electorate saying an "acceptable increase" in global temperature would be 1.8-4 degrees.

The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change finds that a two-degree rise in global temperatures will give the world a 50-50 chance of avoiding dangerous climate change, with the chance of dangerous climate change at four degrees rising to 90 % . A spokeswoman for Ms Ley said last night a "draft letter' had accidentally been sent out to the constituent and Ms Ley supported Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull's "green carbon" policies.
  • Motorists would save at least $150 million a year in fuel tax cuts under emissions trading.
  • This would be a disincentive to reduce car use, says greens.
  • Caltex also opposes tax cuts.

Carbon: embrace the change

Wednesday 22/4/2009 Page: 14

It's time to get realistic about carbon reduction, write Tim Costello and Don Henry.

BUSINESS needs certainty if it is to unlock the investment needed to shift our energy markets and bring cleaner technologies to the market to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The innovation and vigour of the private sector is essential to successfully tackling climate change. World Vision and the Australian Conservation Foundation recognise that transitional assistance may be justified for some emissions intensive trade exposed industries in Australia to help them green up their practices until their overseas competitors are subject to a comparable carbon price.

Business has been listening to policy debates about emissions trading and combating climate change for years. Many businesses are keen to get involved in solving this "diabolical" global problem, as Professor Ross Garnaut describes it. But concrete action demands certainty. Households also need certainty that our smaller efforts will count and help the world avoid dangerous climate change.

And we need certainty that the measures governments in Australia and around the world are adopting to reduce greenhouse emissions will actually do the job. "Doing the job" means avoiding a climate crisis that could put at risk the lives and livelihoods of 1.6 billion people in Asia and Africa through food and water shortages and make hundreds of millions of people vulnerable to sea level rises because of climate change. We must act.

Unfortunately, the proposed climate change measures in Australia at the moment risk delivering neither certainty for business nor protection for the climate and the world's poor. Certainty for the environment demands science-based global action. The best opportunity to achieve this is at the negotiations in Copenhagen in December where all governments have agreed to strike a new treaty to take effect after 2012 when the current Kyoto Protocol expires.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has advised that to keep warming below levels considered extremely dangerous, atmospheric levels of greenhouse pollution will need to be stabilised at 450 parts per million or lower and global emissions will need to be cut from 1990 levels by 50 to 85% by 2050.

Developed countries as a group will need to cut their emissions by between 25 and 40% by 2020. Recent reputable science is now indicating the need to go further and faster. Two weeks ago, New Scientist magazine revealed that melting ice caps affect not just polar bears but could cause "runaway" global warming due to melting permafrost.

"A warmer Arctic will change the entire planet and some of the potential consequences are nothing short of catastrophic", according to a report entitled Meltdown. The human misery caused by the recent Victorian bushfires is unfortunately just a small taste of what is to come if the world doesn't act strongly. CSIRO estimates our children will face a future with twice as many extreme and catastrophic fire days if the world doesn't dramatically cut greenhouse emissions.

Here at home the Great Barrier Reef, the only living thing on Earth that can be seen from the moon, is at grave risk, along with the regional Queensland economies and tens of thousands of jobs that it supports. The global economic crisis makes us all focus on the bottom line - business and charities alike - but it also presents an opportunity to support policies that can stimulate a low carbon economy, foster much-needed public support for change and international collaboration and secure large-scale investment in a sustainable future.

Climate change is about jobs. A new low-carbon future means a future with new industries, properly accounting for carbon and other waste, a fairer deal for all nations, and a less polluting lifestyle. If we all pursue our individual self-interest, one thing is certain: we will knowingly condemn billions of people around the world and our planet to catastrophic climate change, and the great opportunity to smoothly change to a productive low carbon economy will be squandered, at the end of the day costing business dearly.

It is in all our interest that there is a strong global outcome from the Copenhagen negotiations, that Australia plays a leadership role, that business is a central part of the solution and that we move in an efficient and fair way to a low carbon economy. At the moment in Australia, the Government's carbon pollution reduction scheme proposals will not deliver this in its current form. The scheme desperately needs to be fixed and passed this year.

Tim Costello is chief executive of World Vision Australia; Don Henry is executive director of the Australian Conservation Foundation.

Wednesday 22 April 2009

Solar tech set to flatten rivals

Summaries - Australian Financial Review
Tuesday 21/4/2009 Page: 46

Transfield Holdings joint managing directors Luca and Guido Belgiorno-Nettis have been investing the past two years in German solar technology company, Novatec Biosol. Last night Novatec Biosol was awarded the prestigious Energy and Environment prize at the Hannover Fair. The solar technology is 'competitively priced' with oil at or above US$40 a barrel, Luca Belgiorno-Nettis said. Mr Belgiorno-Nettis said he sees opportunities and applications for the technology emerging in the energy-intensive mining industry in Australia. The Belgiorno-Nettis brothers have also previously invested in the renewable energy sector, owning a stake in the biofuels Group.

Climate minister defiant - Plan won't be scrapped

Courier Mail
Tuesday 21/4/2009 Page: 18

CLIMATE Change Minister Penny Wong has refused to go "back to the drawing board" on her contentious emissions trading scheme, but will support cuts to global emissions that are tougher than her own policy. In a speech to the Lowy Institute yesterday, a steadfast Senator Wong who is under pressure from within her party and from business and environmental groups to dump her scheme warned she would not back down.

Senator Wong outlined her vision for a global agreement when nations meet in Copenhagen in December, and mapped out how Australia could contribute. She called for a greater effort to stop deforestation, saying: "If we are able to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations at 450 parts per million or lower, then we need to ensure ... (the) agreement provides incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation".

Senator Wong argued all sectors be covered under an agreement, although the proposed scheme only includes 75% of sectors. And under the Government's legislation, greenhouse gases will be cut from five to 15% on 2000 levels by 2020. Modelling by the Government's hand-picked economist on climate change, Ross Garnaut, said cutting emissions by 550 parts per million would mean reducing emissions by 10 % . Under a global agreement of 450 parts per million, 25% cuts would have to be agreed.

Senator Wong said a global agreement needed to be fair, comprehensive and broaden the number of countries taking on commitments. "To be fair, countries need to take on comparable commitments and actions, considering their national circumstances," she said. However, Greens deputy leader Christine Milne argued that Senator Wong's rhetoric did not mirror the Government's legislation. "Penny Wong is increasingly sounding like a used car salesman, desperately calling out, 'a deal this good can't last for ever', when no one wants to buy the beat-up old gas-guzzler," she said.

Learning to cope with data deluge

Tuesday 21/4/2009 Page: 29

IN 2006 market analyst Gartner sent a chilling warning to data centre operators: act fast or be held hostage by power and cooling problems. Gartner said about half the world's data centres would be functionally obsolete by 2008 because of insufficient power and cooling capacity to meet the demands of high-density equipment. In fact, power and cooling are among the issues on which the federal Government has asked industry to provide feedback.

The Government, as part of the Gershon review, is developing a co-ordinated approach to managing agency data centres. It is not looking to build or buy data centres but it hopes to guide departments and agencies on how to pursue their data centre needs into the future. Government and large enterprises in Australia, like their worldwide counterparts, are grappling with data deluge and looking for the best way to consolidate their data centres.

The global financial crisis has thrown a spanner in the works for organisations hoping to spend heavily on data centre upgrades. Dell vice-president of power and infrastructure solutions Dr Albert Esser says improvements can be made without high costs. Esser says government agencies or any organisation manning a data centre should follow one simple rule: know exactly what each server is doing.

Dell's global power and cooling guru is advising some US government departments and agencies on their data centre strategies. Internally, Dell plans to save $US52 million ($72 million) over three years through data centre consolidation and virtualisation. Esser says up to 20% of servers are sitting idle at customer data centres, the most common excuse being "we forgot to decommission the servers".

The most elementary yet critical point that users should be aware of is their levels of data centre use, he says. In the short term, users should have an inventory of what is in their data centres, he says. He warns that the notion of a "free server" equipment given to the organisation as part of a contra deal or otherwise is a fallacy.

They have this rationale that because the server was free, because they didn't have to pay for it, then it doesn't cost the business anything," Esser says. "That's simply not true. That free server still takes up power and cooling." Server huggers (people who cannot bring themselves to part with such machines) are a bane to any business, he says. "They can't let go and so you have these really old servers in data centres using a lot of power unnecessarily," Esser says.

The next piece of advice he offers is to conduct a comprehensive audit of the applications used and to identify which ones can be virtualised. He says some customers have had a 20% reduction in the number of servers required and this has drastically lowered power consumption bills. "That will give you some breathing space and give you time to map out the next steps," he says.

Government departments and agencies should start asking themselves which applications can run in the "cloud" (services deployed over the Internet). They need to determine how much privacy and security each application needs," Esser says. He cites payroll, where most organisations seek external help. "Payroll is delivered in the cloud ... most companies outsource this service, so it does show that sensitive information, handled in the right context, is already outsourced."

This basic checklist would influence the size of the data centre to be built or whether a new facility is even required. Another key issue is the type of power supply. Esser says as part of its data centre consolidation exercise, Dell decided to go with wind energy and landfill gas. "This has had a huge impact on reducing our carbon footprint." But what should local organisations do? "If you have dry air, like in Australia, you can cool your data centres with water, so you don't have to use gas ... or use wind energy," Esser says.

But no matter how much energy is saved or the number of servers used in virtualisation, there is no substitute for running IT in a more efficient manner. Esser uses the analogy of a bus company trying to go green for all the wrong reasons. If only three people take the bus, what is the point of ditching the gas-guzzling beast for a green-friendly alternative? "You need to get more people on that bus and then think of green energy," he says.

Fran Foo travelled to San Francisco as a guest of Dell

SA geothermal projects win $14m federal funding

Adelaide Advertiser
Tuesday 21/4/2009 Page: 29

TWO South Australian geothermal energy projects have won $7 million each in Federal Government funding. Petratherm and its joint venture partners Beach Petroleum and TRUEnergy received $7 million for their Paralana project in the northern Flinders Ranges. Panax Geothermal plans to spend its $7 million drilling for a geothermal heat resource near Penola, in the state's South-East.

Federal Energy Minister Martin Ferguson said yesterday geothermal energy had extraordinary potential and could provide baseload power. "Geoscience Australia estimates that if just one% of our geothermal energy was extracted it would equate to
26.000 times Australia's total annual energy consumption," he said.

"In addition to being a low-carbon energy source, geothermal energy also has the potential to add baseload power to the Australian energy grid. "This would diversify Australia's energy supply and add to our overall energy security." Mr Ferguson said a second round of applications for funding would open around the middle of the year. The money comes from the Government's $500 million renewable energy fund.

Tuesday 21 April 2009

Green Stars shooting ahead

West Australian
Saturday 18/4/2009 Page: 12

New streamlined guidelines for the Green Star environmental rating system are expected to save time and money. Green Star is Australia's only national voluntary comprehensive environmental rating system for buildings. It evaluates projects based on criteria including energy and water efficiency and conservation of materials.

The Green Building Council of Australia, established in 2002 to drive the adoption of green building practices, operates Green Star. So far office developments have been certified under the system and there are now also tools to rate apartment buildings. The GBCA says the new guidelines are expected to cut the time and cost of documenting a submission by about 15 % . GBCA Green Star executive director Robin Mellon said this could save project teams about $20,000 on each submission.

The accredited professionals who implemented Green Star, with a project team member helping, estimated a standard submission used to take them many weeks to document. "At current market rates, they can now expect to save around $12,000 of the accredited professional's time and a further $8000 of the team member's time," Mr Mellon said.

He said a lot of consultation with the building industry had been done to make sure the guidelines met the industry's needs. "While it's important for the rating tools to stay rigorous to use, and that means being easier to document," he said.

Earlier this year, the GBCA awarded WA's first six-star Green Star Office Design v2 rating, which evaluates the environmental potential of the design of commercial offices, to Stockland property group. The rating was awarded for a new office building, to be completed this month, in Victoria Avenue, Perth.

GBCA WA State manager Nadja Kampfhenkel said the building could be considered a world leader. The four-level 7200sqm building included a greywater recycling system for toilet flushing. It also had automated louvres that respond to sunlight and three rooftop wind turbines providing green energy to part of and robust, they must also be easy the building.

Sydney's new water factory

Sunday Telegraph
Sunday 19/4/2009 Page: 14

THESE are the first pictures of Sydney's new "water factory" - the controversial $1.9 billion desalination plant at Kurnell now in its final stages of construction. Four years after former NSW premier Bob Carr announced plans to build it to drought-proof Sydney, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal the project is on track to begin operating this summer. At full capacity, it will supply 15% of Sydney's water supplies each year.

Water will be sucked from the sea and cleansed of salt by a process that is so thorough the result will be too pure to be piped straight into the existing system. As a result, the operation will include another step where vital elements and minerals are added back into the finished product so it matches the existing water supply. The desalination plant, dubbed Sydney's water factory by workers there, is now 80% complete. Testing is due to begin in June.

It comprises a maze of underground and deep-sea tunnels connected to a filtration plant. The final links are an 18km pipeline which will connect the plant to Sydney's water supply at Erskineville, which is one-third built, and an 8km deep-sea pipe, construction of which is due to begin this week. Drilling operations have begun off a giant barge located 300m off the coast, in the Tasman Sea, where the water intake and outtake pipes will be laid.

Helicopters have become a regular sight around the 47m platform, with airlifts the only means to get workers, food and equipment on to the structure. The pipes will be connected to a filtration building where seawater will be pumped at high pressure through some 36,000 membranes which remove the salt by reverse-osmosis. The membranes are contained within 4000 long white rods, which are stacked from the floor to the ceiling inside a building which is large enough to cover two football fields.

Regarded as the nerve centre of the operation, the building has been constructed out of thick slabs of concrete to protect from the elements the millions of dollars worth of hi-tech equipment it houses. The thick walls are also designed to shield workers from the high-pitched screech the high-pressure pumps emit when operating.

Much of the equipment has been sourced from overseas, with around 17 countries contributing key parts to the plant. The greatest challenge will be stopping corrosion, with the highest grade of stainless steel used to try to guard against rust. The seawater concentrate left at the end of the process will be released back into the ocean. And despite it being twice as salty as normal seawater, scientists do not believe its release back to sea will have any significant impact on marine life.

The filtration plant has been built to produce 250 million litres of water a year, although enough room has been left on the site to double capacity if required. On completion, more than 4000 workers employed by Bluewater, which is building the plant and the sea tunnels, and the Water Delivery Alliance will have contributed to the project. But just 12 employees will work on-site once it's operational.

Bluewater project director John Barraclough described the construction of the plant as one of the State's greatest engineering feats in terms of water supply. "The days of digging a hole in the ground and sticking in a pipe have changed," he said. "The technology alone is worth around $300 million - that's not the pipes and buildings, just the parts."

Pending good weather and no obstacles in the laying of pipes, the plant will be turned on this summer no matter how much water is in our dams - currently 60% full after good rain. The plant will operate at full capacity for two years. Beyond that, the State Government will determine its operation levels.

Critics say the money would be better spent on recycling and reducing water consumption. But Sydney Water data reveals that per capita water consumption is now below 330 litres a person a day down from a peak of 550 litres a person a day. Sydney residents use less water today that they did in 1950.

You're Paying
Sydney Water customers will pay for the $1.9 billion plant through higher water bills. The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal increased water and sewerage bills for Sydney households last year by about $125 a year. By 2012, the average bill is expected to rise by $245. Just under half that amount will cover the cost of the plant. The plant's hi-tech valves and pumps alone will cost about $300 million. When the plant is operating at capacity, the cost of running it will be about 70c for every 1000 litres of treated water. There is a boom in desalination plant construction around Australia, with plants also planned for the Gold Coast, Adelaide and Perth.

Wind Power
A 67-Turbine windfarm being built to power the desalination plant is set to be commissioned around June. The State Government has signed a 20-year contract for the windfarm, at Bungendore near Queanbeyan. When complete, Capital Windfarm will be the largest of its kind in NSW. Funded by Babcock and Brown Wind Partners and Babcock and Brown Power, the windfarm contract allows excess energy to be sold to other users. Critics say the plant will rely on coal-fired electricity on non-windy days, but Sydney Water claims the contract for the farm is designed to ensure more than enough energy to cover days when there is less wind.

Residents near the construction of the pipeline are seeking compensation for the chaos and environmental damage caused by the building of the pipeline. Citing noise, vibration and dust issues, several families along the route are understood to be lodging formal compensation claims. The State Government last year promised to foot the bill for any damage done to homes as a result of the plant's construction. Building of the filtration plant has attracted strong opposition from environmental groups and Kurnell residents, who claim it is another eyesore alongside the Caltex oil refinery and Continental Carbon plant.

Business divided on climate change

Summaries - Australian Financial Review
Monday 20/4/2009 Page: 7

The Federal Government is preparing to introduce its emissions trading scheme (ETS) legislation into parliament, as business opposition to the ETS grows due to the economic crisis and fears of job losses. Hydro Aluminium Kurri Kurri, which is owned by Norway's Norsk Hydro, said that a planned $4 billion expansion of its Hunter Valley-based smelter would have to be abandoned if the ETS went ahead as is, with a 20% renewable energy target.

Westpac Banking Corporation, however, did not believe the economic downturn was sufficient reason to change the scheme, saying its was designed as a market-based mechanism and has 'significant safety valves and price buffering measures in place to respond to current economic conditions.' Climate Change Minister Penny Wong goes to Washington this week to attend the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate. Initiating the forum, United States President Barack Obama is seeking to increase interest in the Copenhagen climate change meeting in December.

Rudd ignores better options after pressure from industry

Monday 20/4/2009 Page: 15

Billion-dollar hand-outs to polluters won't create the jobs we need now.

IN Canberra last week, the gloves were off as Australia's leading climate scientists, representatives of heavy polluting industries and opposing senators squared off over the future direction of the carbon pollution reduction scheme. In one corner, industry representatives were claiming that their future and that of their workers was at stake unless the Federal Government added billions of dollars to the $9 billion (by 2012) already being offered to heavy polluting industries.

In the other corner, climate scientists from the CSIRO put their jobs at risk in order to inform Australians of the worsening threats to this country's economy and environment unless we strengthen our weak carbon pollution target of 5 to 15% cuts by 2020. The Government would appear to have given into pressure from the heavy polluting industries, despite the potential job growth and economic flow on that would result from Australia becoming a low-carbon economy of the future.

Green Gold Rush, a recent report from the Australian Conservation Foundation and the ACTU, found that Australia could generate nearly 1 million new green jobs by 2030 if we set in place the infrastructure today to expand six key green employment areas - renewable energy energy efficiency, sustainable water systems, biomaterials, green buildings and waste and recycling.

So why is the Government allowing industry to hold us back as a nation? It is not as though we would be going it alone if we set in place the infrastructure today to shift to a low-carbon economy. In fact, a much bigger risk to our future prosperity is that the US, Europe and Asia will leave its in their wake.

In his quarterly essay Quarry Vision, former Liberal Party adviser Guy Pearse recently debunked the notion that to move away from Australia's reliance on coal would sink the economy. Mining in Australia accounts for just 1% of the workforce: twice as many Australians work for McDonalds as work in the mining industry and Bunnings employs more people than the entire aluminium industry.

Barack Obama has said that he sees the growth of millions of green-collar jobs as the pathway to a strong middle class in America. British Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband said there was a global race to create a low-carbon economy and that Britain must not get left behind, and Prince Minister Gordon Brown noted the opportunity to create hundreds of thousands of jobs at a time when unemployment is surging. Yet Australia remains grafted to the heavy polluting industries of the past.

At the heart of dramatically reducing greenhouse pollution is the chance to create jobs now for the low-carbon economies of the future. Treasury's own modelling shows that the proposed 5% domestic target would mean that Australia's emissions would be static until 2035 because of the unlimited opportunity for polluters to buy international permits.

Will the solar, energy efficiency, green building industries of the future hang around until 2035 waiting for business opportunities in a greener Australian economy? Will resource sector giants such as BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto clean up their act in Australia if they don't have to until 2035? No chance.

Last week Kevin Rudd launched his Global carbon capture and storage Institute. He is playing a high-stakes game by focusing Australia's global effort on the hope that carbon capture and storage - an untested and unproven technology - will be the silver bullet solution. The CSIRO's clean coal technology expert, David Brockway, also gave evidence at the Senate enquiry into climate policy, noting that it could take 20 years before clean coal technologies were ready for commercial use.

There are big risks involved in scaling up carbon capture technology to a level necessary to test its viability, he said, and there were currently no largescale pilot plants to do this. Brockway said an average coal-fired power station in Australia emitted 20 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, but it would be "a big challenge" for a pilot carbon capture plant to deal with just 10,000 tonnes.

Australia should be focusing on creating jobs and investment in technologies that are ready to go now. Where is Australia's Global Solar Energy Institute? Or its Global Renewables Institute? It is time to face the reality that neither clean coal nor billions of dollars in hand-outs to polluters will secure its an economically viable and environmentally sustainable future.

What we need now is for the Government to commit to science-based climate targets of 30 to 40% emissions reductions by 2020, and to a number of measures that will reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, stimulate alternative technologies and create a substantial number of jobs over the period relevant for tackling the current economic downturn.

James Norman is a communications adviser with the Australian Conservation Foundation.

Gases ruled health threat

Sunday Mail Brisbane
Sunday 19/4/2009 Page: 39

WASHINGTON: Cars, power plants and factories could all soon face much tougher pollution limits in the US after the country's Environmental Protection Agency shifted course and announced that carbon dioxide emissions were a threat to human health.

In a landmark ruling that could signal a major change in US environmental policy, the EPA review of scientific evidence concluded that carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases "endanger public health and welfare" under federal clean air laws, that they help cause climate change, and they pose an enormous threat "in both magnitude and probability".

It is the first time that the US Government has said it is ready to use the Clean Air Act to require power plants, cars and trucks to curtail climate changing pollution, especially carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels. The agency said the science pointing to man-made pollution as a cause of global warming was "compelling and overwhelming". It also said exhaust emissions from motor vehicles were a contributing factor.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson cautioned that regulations were not "imminent", and made clear that the Obama administration would prefer that Congress addressed the climate issue through a broader carbon-trading program that would limit heat trapping pollution. Even if regulations were not imminent, the EPA action was seen as likely to encourage action on Capitol Hill. Democratic Congressman Ed Markey, whose House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hopes to craft legislation soon, called the EPA action "a game-changer". "It is now a choice between regulation and legislation," he said.

Republicans and some centrist Democrats have been critical of proposed carbon trading legislation, arguing it would lead to much higher energy prices. House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio called the EPA's move towards regulation "a backdoor attempt to enact a national energy tax that will have a crushing impact on consumers, jobs and our economy". Environmentalists called the EPA action a watershed in addressing climate change.

Monday 20 April 2009

Innamincka power plant ready in weeks

Adelaide Advertiser
Friday 17/4/2009 Page: 81

GeoDynamics' 1MW geothermal power plant in northern South Australia is almost complete, and will start "hot commissioning" within the next two weeks. The Brisbane firm said the construction of the pilot plant in the Cooper Basin near Innamincka was complete, apart from the installation of the last two high-pressure heat exchangers, which arrived on site yesterday. "Work on the overhead powerline between the 1MW pilot plant and the township of Innamincka has been completed, with final connection planned to coincide with the commissioning of the plant," the company said yesterday.

GeoDynamics, led by managing director Gerry Grove-White, plans to start supplying Innamincka with free renewable energy by the middle of this year. GeoDynamics also said it had submitted an application for $90 million of funding under the Federal Government's Renewable Energy Demonstration Program. "Following the announcement on March 30 that proof of concept has been achieved in its Cooper Basin project, the company believes it has satisfied all of the eligibility criteria and merit criteria of the program in relation to the development of a commercial demonstration plant," it said. Last week, GeoDynamics received a $560,000 grant from the State Government to pay for half the cost of connecting the pilot plant to Innamincka.

Triodos mulling €300 million wind energy securitisation
London,16 April

Ethical bank Triodos is considering securitising a part of its portfolio of loans to renewable energy projects, to allow it to increase its lending to the sector. The Netherlands-based bank is discussing a potential €300 million ($400 million) securitisation at group level, but Bevis Watts, head of business banking at its UK arm, said no decisions have yet been taken.

"There's no immediate pressure, but we see an opportunity for Triodos and a huge market demand that isn't being met," he told Environmental Finance. Such a securitisation, "may allow us to participate in bigger deals", he said. Currently, the bank in the UK can lend up to £30 million ($45 million) to any one customer. The plan would involve securitising loans to wind energy projects - repackaging them as bonds, whose interest payments would be met with income from the loans. These bonds would be sold to institutional investors, moving some of its renewable energy portfolio off its balance sheet, freeing up lending capacity as well as raising capital.

Watts said that, in the UK, Triodos has seen competition to lend to smaller wind energy projects - in which the bank specialises - falling away in recent months. Moreover, the slow-down or cancellation of larger projects has seen wind turbines become available to smaller projects.

"The wind market is particularly busy for us," he said, with "a huge pipeline of deals in Ireland specifically ... The question for us is, will our pipeline outgrow our balance sheet?" He added that, a couple of years ago, the bank would simply have raised a fund, but the thinking is that pooling some of its existing debt into a securitisation - in which it would retain some participation - would make the investment more attractive in the current climate.

He declined to comment on which assets might be securitised, or on the likely performance of any bonds issued. He did, however, say that the bank is considering either a group-wide structure, or one that securitises only UK assets to avoid introducing currency exposures into the deal. The bank operates in the Netherlands, the UK, Ireland, Belgium, Spain and Germany, and specialises in financing "companies, institutions and projects that add cultural value and benefit people and the environment".

The bank's balance sheet stood at €2 billion as of last June, including around €300 million of loans to the renewable energy sector. It manages a further €400 million in off balance sheet renewables funds. In the UK, Triodos has lent £60 million ($90 million) to the wind sector, with a further £20 million committed to projects under construction.

Garnaut's climate change agonising

Sydney Morning Herald
Friday 17/4/2009 Page: 3

THE Government climate change adviser Ross Garnaut says judging whether it would be better to pass the emissions trading system as it stands or start again would be a line-ball call. In front of a Senate inquiry yesterday, Professor Garnaut urged senators to make significant changes to the system.

He had previously voiced displeasure at the extent of largesse directed towards industries exposed to a carbon trading system, but yesterday went further and said he had been agonising about whether the Government's plan was preferable to starting again. "If there were no changes at all it would be a line-ball call whether it is better to push ahead or say we still want the [emissions trading scheme] at the centre of our mitigation effort but we'll have another crack at it and do a better one when the time is right," he said.

The Government's proposed strategy for dealing with climate change faces a vexed passage through the Senate. The Greens say it is not robust enough and the Coalition warns that it will destroy jobs. Professor Garnaut proposed changes to the scheme, to start next year. The plan by the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, and the Minister for Climate Change, Penny Wong, aims to cut emissions by 5% to 15% by 2020.

Professor Garnaut, who said climate change policy amounted to gambling with the lives of future Australians, advocated cutting emissions by 25% by 2020, provided the rest of the world took similar steps. He was relatively optimistic about the chances of big emitters such as China and the US committing to ambitious cuts, and said Australia could be an influential voice in global climate change talks.

Professor Garnaut, whose review of climate change was commissioned by the federal and state governments in 2007, wants more money set aside to help develop cleaner technology. He also opposes the extent to which free permits are issued to industry under the Government's climate change plan. "There are some things that could be done that may reduce the compromise in the ETS to an extent that would make it worthwhile," he told the inquiry, which was initiated by the Opposition.

Professor Garnaut suggested a mechanism to wind back the number of free permits issued to trade-exposed industries when other countries started putting prices on carbon. His evidence came as another Senate inquiry into the carbon trading scheme, this one dominated by Government senators, issued its report on the scheme, declaring it a good strategy.

Dissenting reports were critical. The Coalition called for the Government to dump its scheme and go "back to the drawing board". The Greens said "serious changes" were needed. The independent senator Nick Xenophon said the scheme was "ill-equipped" to bring about reform, and the Family First senator Steve Fielding was concerned it would cost families too much. Mr Rudd stuck to his agenda yesterday when he launched a global institute to work towards clean coal technology.

Try again on carbon: Garnaut

Friday 17/4/2009 Page: 1

CLIMATE change adviser Ross Garnaut says it could be better for the Senate to vote down the Rudd Government's emissions trading scheme so Australia could "have another crack" at getting it right later a view a majority of senators have now said they share.

But Professor Garnaut said the Government's carbon pollution reduction scheme would become "substantially better than doing nothing" if the Government agreed to changes including leaving open the possibility of a tougher 25% emissions-reduction target by 2020 as part of an ambitious global climate deal, and spending up to $3 billion a year by 2013 on research and development for low-emission technologies.

The CPRS is facing defeat when it comes before the Senate in June, with Coalition senators yesterday demanding the Government "go back to the drawing board" and come back to the Senate next year with a "properly modelled and considered plan" that takes into account the outcome of the UN climate change summit in Copenhagen in December. The Greens are demanding a more ambitious scheme, and independent senator Nick Xenophon's preference is for a completely different approach.

"There is a complex process going on now in the Senate ... if there were no changes at all (to the Government's legislation) ... it would be a line-ball call as to whether it was better to push ahead or say we'll have another crack at it and do a better one when the time is right," Professor Garnaut told the Senate select committee on climate policy in Canberra yesterday. Climate Change Minister Penny Wong has repeatedly argued that the Senate should pass the scheme because it begins the process of moving to a low-carbon economy and provides business certainty, and is therefore better for business and the environment than no scheme at all.

But asked whether the scheme as proposed was "better than nothing", Professor Garnaut - the Government's top independent adviser on climate change - said it was a "really hard question". "I am still agonising over that, to be honest," he said.

Liberal senators and Nationals senator Barnaby Joyce co-wrote a dissenting report to the findings of a government-controlled Senate inquiry into the emissions trading scheme. In their report, released yesterday, they urged that "the exposure draft carbon pollution reduction scheme not be presented to parliament, and that the Government go back to the drawing board before presenting a properly modelled and considered plan that reflects the outcomes of this year's Copenhagen climate change meeting and the best interests of Australia".

In a separate report, the Greens attacked the Government's proposed target of cuts of between 5 and 15% of 2000 emission levels by 2020 as being too low, and said the free permits for trade exposed industries were too long and generous.

The Greens view is that the CPRS is not designed to drive the transition to a zero-carbon economy, but rather is intended to maintain the profitability of fossil fuel-based industries. The legislation would actively prevent the kind of emissions reductions Australia needs to achieve to play a role in the global effort to prevent climate catastrophe," the Greens say.

Petratherm keen for a slice of $435m pie

Adelaide Advertiser
Friday 17/4/2009 Page: 81

Petratherm has entered the bidding for a share of the Federal Government's $435 million Renewable Energy Demonstration Program (REDP), lodging a funding application yesterday. The Adelaide-based geothermal energy company has submitted an application for up to a third of the expected $200 million cost of its Paralana project in the northern Flinders Ranges.

Petratherm said the REDP offered up to one third of the cost of renewable energy projects, with grants expected to be in the order of $50 million to $100 million. "The 30 MW commercial demonstration project has an estimated cost of approximately $200 million, and includes network connection to the nearby Beverley uranium mine, just 11km away from the project site," the company said in a statement. "Petratherm has sought funding for one third of eligible expenditures.

"Petratherm and its joint venture partners, Beach Petroleum and TRUEnergy Geothermal, consider the Paralana project to be the best commercial geothermal energy project in Australia, and have submitted a compelling and competitive application built on the key attributes of the Paralana project."

Petratherm said the benefits of the project included a clear path to commercialisation, based on the initial provision of 30MW of power into the local market, followed by 260-520MW into the national electricity grid. It also had "a financially strong group of joint venture partners ... with complementary skills and excellent project management capability needed to successfully address matters ranging from the sub-surface through to power generation and the sale of power in the national electricity market."

Garnaut urges change of plan

Adelaide Advertiser
Friday 17/4/2009 Page: 27

THE Government's own climate adviser says it may be best to dump the emissions trading scheme and "have another crack at it" later. Professor Ross Garnaut, above, says it's line ball whether the scheme in its current form is worth doing. At a Senate committee hearing yesterday, he urged senators to make substantial changes.