Thursday 30 April 2009

EPA GHG ruling opens alternative path for regulation
22 April, 2009

In a long-anticipated move, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ruled on Friday that carbon dioxide and the five other Kyoto Protocol greenhouse gases (GHGs) pose a danger to human health - opening up an alternative avenue for GHG regulation, should Congress not pass climate change legislation. "This finding confirms that GHG pollution is a serious problem now and for future generations," said EPA administrator Lisa Jackson. "Fortunately, it follows President [Barack] Obama's call for a low-carbon economy and strong leadership in Congress on clean energy and climate legislation."

Specifically, the 133-page 'endangerment finding' notes that: "The GHGs that are responsible for [climate change] endanger public health and welfare within the meaning of the Clean Air Act." The finding follows a 2007 ruling by the Supreme Court, which found that GHG regulation would fall within the EPA's ambit, unless it could show that GHGs don't contribute to global warming. However, under the Bush administration, the agency failed to take the next step required to regulate GHGs.

The eventual judgement from the EPA opens the door for regulation of GHGs via the provisions of the Clean Air Act - allowing the Obama administration to bypass Congress, should it fail to bring a climate change bill to the president's desk. However, addressing climate change gases via regulation would leave the door open to a range of legal challenges. Efforts by the EPA to introduce new rules for emissions of sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxide by regulation - after former president George Bush's 2002 Clear Skies Act was rejected by Congress - collapsed last year as a result of legal action.

Analysts believe that the administration is reluctant to pursue the regulatory route - instead hoping that the endangerment finding will encourage a recalcitrant Congress to support legislation such as the recently introduced Waxman-Markey bill, hearings for which began yesterday.

"The agency could have included proposed emission standards for motor vehicles, and standards for other GHG sources," said a note from law firm Van Ness Feldman. "The fact that the proposal did not include such standards suggests that EPA might be moving deliberately, thereby reinforcing the Administration's oft-stated preference for a legislative programme, and signaling that the agency wants to avoid the regulatory cascade that some critics have said is the inevitable outcome of the endangerment finding."

Indeed, as the EPA said in announcing the finding: "Both President Obama and administrator Jackson have repeatedly indicated their preference for comprehensive legislation to address this issue and create the framework for a clean energy economy."

The finding is open for 60 days of public comment.

Industry welcomes Budget boost for UK low-carbon sector
London, 23 April

The UK's 2009 Budget, unveiled yesterday, promises a boost to the development of a low-carbon economy, according to industry groups. Yesterday's announcements, combined with initiatives put forward since last autumn, should enable £10.4 billion ($15.1 billion) of investment in the sector, on top of the £50 billion from existing policies to 2011, said the government.

"The measures outlined in the Budget are a significant step towards building a clear and credible programme of practical policies that will allow the UK to meet its targets for reducing greenhouse gas [GHG] emissions," said Nicholas Stern, author of the influential Stern Review on climate change. "The additional expenditure ... on renewables, energy efficiency, carbon capture and storage [CCS], and other low-carbon technologies, must be the initial step along the path towards a major structural shift in policy which we trust will follow over the coming decade," he said.

The Budget proposed a review of the Renewables Obligation, which requires electricity suppliers to source an annually increasing percentage of power from renewable sources, with a view to awarding more tradable Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs) to offshore wind production. Since 1 April, offshore wind producers are awarded 1.5 ROCs per MW hour (MWh) of electricity produced, but the government is considering increasing this to 2 ROCs/MWh.

This could provide £525 million of support to the UK's offshore windfarms, the finance ministry said, the development of which has been hampered by spiralling costs caused by the fall in sterling and tighter financing markets. "This package of measures deserves a welcome from our industry and is in line with proposals that we have been working through with government," said Adam Bruce, chairman of the British Wind Energy Association. "It addresses the short-term economic hurdles we faced due to the fall of the pound against the euro and the post-Lehman collapse in project finance.

"It also restates the government's long-term commitment to the renewable energy sector and should enable us to unlock up to £10 billion of private-sector investment in wind and marine energy projects over the coming few years." Industry has also welcomed a further £4 billion of support for renewable energy projects to come from the European Investment Bank (EIB), according to the Budget, "through direct lending to energy projects and intermediated lending to banks". "The uplift in the Renewable Obligation and the EIB funding will help bring forward major windfarm and other much needed green energy projects," said Derrick Parkes, an energy tax partner at consultancy KPMG in London.

There are also proposals to fund CCS research and projects, including £90 million - of which £60 million is from existing transport budgets - to fund "preparatory studies" by those companies involved in the long-running competition for CCS financing. Part of the funding will also come from a levy on consumers - which Ernst & Young said will "pile pressure on [the] government to make sure that CCS projects are delivered on time, to budget and are of direct benefit to the UK consumer".

The government reinforced its commitment to CCS today, with an announcement that all new coal-fired plants are to be built so that CCS equipment can be retrofitted, within five years of the technology being commercially proven. Ed Miliband, Energy and Climate Change Secretary, also announced that the levy outlined in the Budget will be used to finance one post-combustion CCS project and up to three additional projects which could include pre-combustion - an approach previously shunned by the government.

These measures are designed to help the UK meet its GHG emission reduction commitments, which were also formally adopted yesterday. The government announced its first three carbon budgets, each for a five-year period, as mandated under the Climate Change Act adopted last year. As per the recommendations of the Committee on Climate Change, the government is aiming to reduce UK GHG emissions by 34% compared with 1990 levels by 2020 - but this will rise to 42% if a new international climate change deal is agreed.

But the Renewable Energy Association warned that the Budget's provisions do not go far enough to ensure that the UK meets its target to source 15% of its energy from renewables by 2020, as part of a wider EU agreement for renewables to account for an average of 20% of the bloc's energy mix by that date. "We are allocating substantially less to sustainable energy during the global downturn than other countries and this will leave our world class renewables businesses at a competitive disadvantage," added Philip Wolfe, director general of the association.

And Keith Allott, head of climate change at conservation group WWF UK, cited WWF research that shows that the UK is trailing other G20 countries "in terms of the positive environmental action proposed within our fiscal stimulus. Worse, the few positive elements that were present are more than outweighed by the negative initiatives proposed, such as road building. This Budget was an opportunity to redress that balance, yet it appears the government has failed to seize it." However, analysis from HSBC in London shows that, overall, 10.6% of the UK's economic stimulus is being spent fighting climate change, compared with just 5.6% of Japan's. But both are below the global average of 15%.

Ausenco banks on green growth

Courier Mail
Wednesday 29/4/2009 Page: 30

ENGINEERING services group Ausenco is looking to grow this year by taking advantage of green energy and building investments. Ausenco chief executive Zimi Meka said while shareholder return last year was affected by the market downturn, this year should see the company grow despite challenging conditions.

"We are increasing our footprint in the key growth sectors of infrastructure, energy and oil and gas," Mr Meka told the company's annual general meeting yesterday. "Specifically, we are looking to capture infrastructure investment sparked by stimulus spending and more of the green energy market based on our solar, wind and biomass energy experience. We are continually seeking to identify and act on viable opportunities for growth," Mr Meka said.

The company recorded a net profit of $56.3 million in the 2008 calendar year, up 35.6% from $41.5 million in 2007. Its scrip rose 15¢ to $3.12.

Rudd set to soften energy rulings

Wednesday 29/4/2009 Page: 4

ENERGY-hungry industries could be offered exemptions from the federal Government's new 20% renewable energy target, as Kevin Rudd struggles to win support for his climate change policies in the face of the global economic crisis. The Prime Minister will ask premiers to sign off on the further concessions for the industries at tomorrow's Council of Australian Governments meeting in Hobart. The Government had foreshadowed an exemption for aluminium, but sources said it was now considering a broader partial exemption or compensation scheme t hat would cover other big electricity users such as pulp and paper, steel, cement and silicon.

Major industries had complained about the "double whammy" from both the planned carbon pollution reduction scheme and the renewable energy target, which requires that electricity retailers and large users source 20% of electricity supply from renewable sources by 2020. Some sources suggested the broader RET exemptions could soften industry resistance to the emissions trading law when its fate is decided in the Senate next month.

BlueScope Steel chairman Graham Kraehe yesterday launched a bitter attack against the emissions trading scheme plan, saying it was "dangerous", "flawed" and could lead to thousands of job losses. "It is very disappointing that the Government still appears stubbornly committed to its 2010 carbon pollution reduction scheme deadline, despite its obvious and serious flaws," he told a meeting of the Australian Institute of Company Directors in Brisbane.

He said the Government was on the one hand injecting more than $50 billion into the economy to soften the downturn and on the other hand potentially destroying employment for thousands of workers with a carbon tax that would have a serious destabilising effect on industry and regional Australia. Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said clear domestic laws were crucial to the success of the UN climate change talks in Copenhagen in December to determine a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

Speaking from Washington, where she is attending a meeting of ministers from major emitting nations as part of a process organised by US President Barack Obama to inject momentum into the Copenhagen negotiations, Senator Wong said: "The consistent message has been that international negotiations have to be underpinned by domestic actions."

A decision to exempt more electricity-hungry industries from the renewable energy target would anger environmentalists. The Australian Conservation Foundation, the ACTU, the Australian Council of Social Service and the Climate Institute Australia think tank wrote to Kevin Rudd last week arguing against any exemptions from the target.

Wednesday 29 April 2009

Forget sports extravaganzas, here's a major event Melbourne has to have.

Tuesday 28/4/2009 Page: 13

IT IS no surprise that economic sustainability has trumped environmental sustainability as "the" issue of the day. While there has been an unprecedented global response to tackle economic problems, there has not been a sufficiently immediate and personal threat to focus enough minds on global environmental urgency and action.

The world has a surplus of individual leaders, organisations and experts "addressing" environmental sustainability of the planet but a deficit of action demanded by the large, complex and high-stakes issues. A path has to be found through or around past thinking and ideals, lack of political will and courage, change-averse bureaucracies, corporate shorttermism, flawed economic models, unsustainable energy assumptions, negative or under engaged media, lobbyists, vested interests, and greed-driven strategies.

If Charles Darwin had joined a recent meeting in Copenhagen of 2500 scientists from 80 nations, he would have been disappointed that, 150 years on, so much of his seminal work had been narrowcast as "survival of the fittest". His full story was that the survival or extinction of any species would result from the degrees of required mutuality of interest within and between species; interdependence of human and natural environments; dynamics of advantage and disadvantage; unintended consequences of behaviour; resilience and adaptability; living within the means available, and working co-operatively against common threats.

He would have been alarmed by scientists' reports that global warming is worse than the worst-case scenarios of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: the Antarctic melting as fast as the ice shelf on Greenland (by EarthWatch calculations enough to cover Victoria with 18 metres of water every 24 hours); global temperatures rising 20 times more than climate scientists say should be occurring; and global warming from methane release due to melting of frozen landscapes now equal to that caused by human activity.

Assuming these trends, the outcome is that however well intentioned, governments making commitments to reducing carbon emissions by 80% by 2050, or by 20 to 40% of 1990 levels by 2020, will still change and challenge the human experience. Accepting the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize as head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Rajendra Pachauri said: "If there's not action taken by 2012, that's too late. What we do in the next two to three years will determine our future."

A recent study showed that even if all governments fulfilled their current promises, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will still have reached a level almost twice what scientists say is dangerous. A worldwide network of thought leaders is working on an urgent ambition to mobilise citizens everywhere to reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2020.

Inspired by Lester Brown's Plan B, the State of the World Forum ( is launching a 12-year "Global Transition Initiative" intended to mobilise action around climate change and global warming, engineering a complete shift of the global economy to renewable energy, stronger alignment of all human activity with the natural systems of the earth, and a better balance between ecological and economic life.

The State of the World Forum network will meet in Washington in November and then annually in different cities. Because of the depth and width of transformational change needed, the network is pressing for more urgent and wise collective recognition, capability, willpower and action across all global mechanisms and institutions. Melbourne could put its hand up to bring true meaning to its reputation as "liveable", "thinking" and "innovative".

We are achingly familiar with the impact of natural disasters from extreme heat, fire, flood and drought. We are one of the closest major cities to the thawing Antarctic ice. Our economic wellbeing assumes continued coal access, associated manufacturing exports and a friendly food-producing climate. The State Government should commit Victoria to switching itself to a sustainable economy.

Premier John Brumby could join other leaders, such as those in Brazil, and commit to cutting Victoria's carbon emissions by 80% by 2020 and shifting the basis of the state's economy to renewable resources. This requires a resilient futures framework to ensure the long-terns commitment and engagement of key stakeholders across politics, business, media, academia, science, education and community. Such commitments now would be sound economic and environmental investments.

Politically astute also, given that leaders will increasingly be judged on what they do about this single global issue. It might also allow Melbourne to host the State of the World Forum in Melbourne in 2013 to show how a whole community took a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help ensure human civilisation's wellbeing. That would trump all other "major events".

Steve Harris is former publisher and editor-in-chief of The Age. He is principal of Alqemi, a strategic leadership agency.
Professor Richard Hames is an author, adviser and founding director of the Asian Foresight Institute.

Green patents rise

Adelaide Advertiser
Tuesday 28/4/2009 Page: 21

TRADEMARKS for environmentally-friendly inventions have jumped by 250% in the past five years, Innovation Minister Kim Carr says. Senator Carr said increasing numbers of green patent applications have shown Australian industry is tackling climate change. "Patent registrations for solar and clean coal technology applications have risen by 15% and 50% respectively over five years," he said. "With the huge jump in green trademarks in the energy sector, these figures show innovators are tackling climate change head-on."

Britain does U-turn on coal

Saturday 25/4/2009 Page: 15

NO NEW coal-fired power stations will be built in Britain unless they capture and bury at least 25% of greenhouse gases immediately and 100% by 2025, says Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband. In a reversal of energy policy that represents a major victory for the new Department of Energy and Climate Change and green pressure groups, the British Government will direct the building of four energy "clusters", generating a total of 2.5 billion watts of electricity, on the east coast.

Each cluster will have at least one major new coal-fired power station able to collect carbon emissions and transport them to sea, where they will be buried in redundant oil or gas fields. The new stations, the first to be built in Britain in more than 30 years, are not expected to come on stream until 2015. They will be in the Thames Gateway, on the rivers Humber and Tees and in the Firth of Forth in Scotland, with a possible fifth on Merseyside. The Government envisages oil and coal companies linking to reduce emissions from coal powered electricity generation by up to 60% by 2025.

Demanding carbon capture and storage (CCS) on all new coal plants is expected to cost about it billion ($A2 billion) for each plant and increase energy bills. Government and energy companies are in talks over how the plants will be funded, but it is expected to come from a levy on fossil fuel electricity generation. This could put 2% , or roughly £8 per household a year, on electricity bills by 2020.

Mr Miliband said Britain planned to lead the world in clean coal technology. "There is a massive gain we can benefit from by being in the front of this revolution," he said. "We need to signal a move away from the building of unabated coal-fired power stations because it is right for our country to drive its towards a low-carbon (economy). The change starts now."

Environmental groups were in the unusual position of joining the Confederation of British Industry in hailing a government initiative. "At last Ed Miliband is demonstrating welcome signs of climate leadership in the face of resistance from Whitehall officials and cabinet colleagues," said Greenpeace UK director John Sauven. He is the first minister to throw down the gauntlet to the energy companies and demand they start taking climate change seriously."

A workable idea - Solar prof stars in uni's first innovation award

Daily Telegraph
Monday 27/4/2009 Page: 43

STUART Wenham's aim is to make the world a better place. A measure of his success so far was to be named last week the 2009 Inventor of the Year. The NewSouth Innovation awards, held for the first time, recognise innovative technologies from University of New South Wales researchers and students which, when commercialised, benefit the community and the environment.

Professor Wenham, a world leader in solar technology and leader of the university's ARC Photovoltaic Centre of Excellence, has in the past 25 years been part of the invention process of eight different solar cell technologies that have been licensed and sold around the world. "The university likes the fact that technologies leave the laboratory and find a practical use," Professor Wenham said on the weekend. "It gets royalty fees and licensing fees and owns the intellectual property.

And I'm lucky enough in that it wants us to succeed and it is very generous at rewarding its inventors." Good ideas don't always translate into good business, but NewSouth Innovations was set up by the University of New South Wales to get as much good business out of its talent as possible. Chief executive officer Mark Bennett said that the centre was attuned to industry needs by creating products which can be commercialised and which solve real problems.

Commercialising an idea was not necessarily a simple task, Mr Bennett said. It involved three processes, the first being the protection of the intellectual property, the second examining the marketability of a new idea and, finally, the ownership of the intellectual property. And it's a process that can take two years or a lifetime.

"For example, when commercialising a new cancer drug, the research can take up to 10 years, then you have to get the industry engaged, then do the trials and then the marketing. This can take another 10 years. "And when it takes a long time it can become very expensive, say $230-300 million," Mr Bennett said.

"But with solar energy research they are developing technologies all the time and it may take only one to two years for the industry to adopt a new development. "There are extremes in commercialisation. You can have researchers working their entire careers and never get[ting] anywhere. "But it is important because it gives researchers direction," he said.

Debt blowout for wind farm group

Monday 27/4/2009 Page: 25

Viridis Clean Energy Group, which owns a suite of windfarms in Britain and Germany and landfill gas installations in Britain and the US, has scrapped its dividend payments and flagged a possible equity raising or the sale of the European wind assets as it seeks to reduce its debt to more manageable levels.

Viridis Clean Energy negotiated a refinancing of its $85 million corporate debt facility with Investec and ABN Amro in February, but could only extend it till July 31, 2010, and doubts if it will be able to reach acceptable terms at current debt levels. It has reduced its debt to $62 million after using funds released through the refinancing of a windfarm in Scotland but wants to cut its debts to as low as $20 million to put itself in a position to negotiate a satisfactory long-term facility.

The fund, which raised $126 million in an IPO priced at $1 a security in August 2005, said an equity raising or the sale of the European wind assets were two options. Its earnings have been affected by poor wind conditions in Germany and low energy prices for its landfill gas operations in the US. The announcement was not received well by investors, who pushed its securities down by a third to a record low of 21.5c.

Viridis Clean Energy is also following other listed infrastructure funds by buying out the external management agreement. It will pay a maximum $5.6 million in stock to Viridis Clean Energy Energy Capital, an entity whose main shareholders include Investec, a major sponsor of the Viridis Clean Energy float as well as a lender, and Walter Pahor, the founder and former CEO of Energy Developments. Viridis Clean Energy senior management are also former Energy Development executives.

Energy certificates in hot water

Monday 27/4/2009 Page: 25

AUSTRALIA'S most active carbon market the trade in Renewal Energy Certificates has been particularly busy in the past two weeks, although its price has eased slightly below $50 under the weight of new certificates generated by the rush to solar hot water systems. The listed company UXC said on Friday it was generating more than 10,000 RECs a week from its solar hot water installations and had locked in sates of $28.7 million to three energy retailers.

But a more significant event for the REC market, and the energy industry in general, will occur this week when the COAG meeting is expected to decide on whether and by how much to raise the REC penalty price the sum utilities must pay if they don't meet their quotas under the Government's planned 20/20 renewable energy target.

The idea of increasing the penalty from its current level of $40 per MW/h to $50 or more is that it provides extra incentive for energy utilities to buy renewable power, but it has major implications for the various aspiring energy sources, and how they might fill in the demand created by the RET. The biggest winner will be wind, because many projects are ready to go and the higher penalty would probably make some of the marginal propositions economic and so spark a rush of new projects.

It should also be good news, at least in theory, for some of the newer and more expensive technologies such as solar thermal and wave energy. The one exception might be the geothermal industry, which reckons it can compete with wind on price, and certainly on efficiency, and some participants are concerned that their ability to fully exploit the benefits of the RET will be crowded out by a gust of wind projects.

Finally, there is the gas industry, which, UBS analyst David Leitch noted last week, will find itself in ever increasing competition with wind rather than coal should be penalty price be increased.

UK boost for carbon capture

Monday 27/4/2009 Page: 25

Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling, delivered what he branded as the world's first carbon budget last week, a compendium of initiatives that included increased funding for renewable energy projects, particularly offshore wind, and a legally binding target to cut Britain's carbon emissions by 34% below 1990 levels by 2020. It may increase this target depending on the outcome of climate change negotiations in Copenhagen in December.

But the most striking initiative came from Climate Change Secretary Ed Miltiband, who introduced regulations banning the construction of any new coal-tired power plants unless they could prove they could capture and bury 25% of their greenhouse emissions from day one, and all of their emissions from 2025. Britain, like Australia and the US, aims to become a world leader in carbon capture and storage and hopes this initiative will increase the focus on the issue.

Carbon storage could save Latrobe Valley jobs: clean coal chief

Monday 27/4/2009 Page: 1

THE inaugural head of Clean Coal Victoria believes carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology is a viable proposition that could prevent the loss of hundreds of jobs in the coal sector. Charlie Speirs, who has spent almost 30 years working for Loy Yang Power in the Latrobe Valley, says CCS technology could also be used to build more brown-coal power stations in Victoria. Last April Premier John Brumby committed $110 million to establish precommercial CCS demonstration projects and $12.2 million for Clean Coal Victoria, an organisation designed to "maximise the value of Victoria's brown coal resources".

"The role is pretty clearly to recognise that coal is abundant but it is no longer popular - it's got some environmental issues," Mr Speirs told BusinessDay. "Clean Coal Vic is really about finding ways of using the coal, whether it be for power generation or for alternative uses like liquids or ammonia. But whatever it is, the greenhouse gas needs to be managed appropriately."

Mr Speirs admits he thinks the words "clean" and "coal" have been strangely juxtaposed. "I heard someone say about a month ago that 'clean coal' is an oxymoron and I thought well, yes, that is sort of true," he said. "I think though we have to come up with a way of presenting it so that it lives up to its aim and that is to develop coal in an environmentally sustainable way." Mr Speirs says Latrobe Valley residents, many of whom are employed through the coal industry, are concerned that the economic situation, combined with the moves towards a carbon constrained world, could affect their livelihoods.

"The pragmatic view is that greenhouse is a political reality and I think there is a fair bit of science around to support that. That view has been accepted around this community but there are concerns around what that means for future jobs," he said. "A lot of the work I will be doing is making sure there is a transition towards more environmentally sustainable jobs."

That, Mr Speirs says, includes geosequestration, which he says must be thoroughly investigated. "Loy Yang has run a little plant that has captured carbon so technically it can be done. There is a program running in western Victoria that is putting it back in the ground," he said. "The role I will have will be further investigating how it can be done, what the cost is and where you put the infrastructure.

I think there is confidence in the technology but we need to make sure the capture is done properly and the storage is right." Despite the push away from coal, Mr Speirs believes future brown-coal power plants could be built. "I don't see another Loy Yang being built but I don't accept that no new coal-fired power stations will be built. They would just have to be different to the current design so that the greenhouse gas is managed better," he said.

Tuesday 28 April 2009

Green scientist scoops inventor of year award

Canberra Times
Friday 24/4/2009 Page: 8

A scientist who established Australia's first solar cell production line has won an American award for his outstanding contribution to solar technology. At a black-tie ceremony in Sydney last night, Professor Stuart Wenham, who heads the University of New South Wales photovoltaic centre of excellence, was also named the university's inaugural inventor of the year and its top environmental science inventor.

He won the main $20,000 award from a short list of 11 finalists - all of whom have invented technologies that are now commercialised - beating stiff competition from biomedicine, information technology and engineering. Returning from China this week, where he leads technology innovation for solar cell manufacturing giant SunTech, Professor Wenham said Australia was lagging behind other countries in developing solar technology markets.

"We have fantastic potential to generate new jobs around solar and other renewable energies. But the big challenge is that our electricity is relatively cheap, and there is little incentive for governments to make the move from coal," he said. Professor Wenham said China was taking the future potential of solar energy "very seriously indeed", and was now a world leader in photovoltaic manufacture.

The industry is now worth about $40 billion a year in China, and is growing at an annual rate of 50 % . SunTech, which employs 10,000 people, was created by University of New South Wales graduate Dr Zhengrong Shi to commercialise Australian solar cell technology. Professor Wenham said China was "determined to make it [solar] leading part of the country's energy future".

In a career spanning 25 years, he has invented, or co-invented, eight solar cell technologies that have been commercialised around the world, but none are currently manufactured in Australia. "We had hoped our thin film solar technology might be picked up here, but it ended up going offshore to be manufactured in Germany."

In 1983, Professor Wenham and his PhD supervisor co-invented the buried contact solar cell, a high-efficiency solar silicon cell with tiny, laser-etched grooves in which wires carrying the electric current are buried. It is ranked as one of Australia's top 100 inventions of the 20th century by the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences.

His inventions include a screen-printed finger cell, improved solar cell manufacturing methods, depositing thin-film silicon cells on glass, and a high-energy conversion technology being commercialised by SunTech. In about six weeks Professor Wenham will head to Philadelphia to receive the William Cherry award from the United States Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers for outstanding contributions to the advancement of photovoltaic science.

He would like to see some of his world-first solar inventions manufactured in Australia when the market receives the incentives needed to boost uptake of renewable energy. "Whether we end up with an emissions trading scheme, a carbon tax or a mix of both, it will finally have its heading in the right direction."

Britain aims to cut emissions 34%

Sydney Morning Herald

Friday 24/4/2009 Page:8

Britain bas announced it will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by nearly seven times the amount Australia has committed to. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling, has promised the Government will cut emissions by 34% by 2020 and said it would go even further if other countries agreed to take action during international negotiations this year.

Australia has promised to reduce its emissions by between 5 and 15% by 2020. The Government has said it would consider a target of 25% if other developed countries endorsed similar cuts at the Copenhagen talks. The exact figure for 2020 will not be announced until next year. The Government has been under fire from environmentalists and scientists for not setting a much higher target. They argue emissions must be reduced by at least 25% - but ideally 40% - in order to prevent dangerous levels of climate change.

The Greens senator Christine Milne yesterday praised the British Government's decision. "Is it encouraging to see a government stand up and commit to ambitious cuts in emissions and reach for the jobs and investment that the effort will create," she said. Australia needed a much tougher target if it was to demonstrate leadership at the Copenhagen talks, Senator Milne said. "Locking in scientifically unacceptable targets is a signal to the rest of the world that Australia heads to Copenhagen with the same blocking mentality it took to Kyoto and every global climate conference since," she said.

The British Government also said it would aim to reduce its own emissions rather than rely on international offset schemes. The US Congress is considering a bill to cut its emissions by 20 percent by 2020. But the fate of the bill is uncertain. If It is successful it is likely tile US would be relying on international schemes such as deforestation to reduce its emissions, rather than reducing them domestically.

Coal burning must end, says scientist

Sydney Morning Herald
Friday 24/4/2009 Page: 8

A CSIRO scientist has told a Senate inquiry it is imperative to begin phasing out coal burning in order to avoid dangerous climate change. No coal-fired power plants should be built, and existing plants must shut within 20 years, if the world is to keep atmospheric carbon dioxide at a less dangerous level, the climatologist James Risbey said.

Yesterday Dr Risbey joined other CSIRO scientists who have spoken out personally to the Senate committee on climate policy's inquiry after the CSIRO decided against making a submission. He said the Rudd Government's targets of reducing carbon dioxide levels by at least 5% of 2000 levels by 2020 and 60% by 2050 were not tough enough to avoid dangerous climate change.

In fact, they yield a high likelihood of triggering irreversible changes in the climate system," he said at the committee's hearings in Hobart. Such likelihoods can be greatly reduced with far more stringent emissions reductions. However, further delay makes safer concentration targets unattainable and begins to lock in dangerous climate change."

The committee was told that at current levels of greenhouse gas growth, the world risked an irreversible collapse in the Greenland and West Antarctic Ice Sheets, contributing roughly seven and five metres each to global sea level rise. Acidification of the oceans, release of stored methane and breakdown of snowmelt would also affect food webs and the global population.

"While we cannot give a precise temperature at which each of these processes would occur, the threshold is thought to be in the vicinity of about two degrees in each case," Dr Risbey said. But Australia's proposed carbon pollution reduction scheme, if applied by all countries, would mean a 50 to 90% chance of exceeding the threshold. "In other words, this is Russian roulette with the climate system, with most of the chambers loaded," he said.

Monday 27 April 2009

Councils drive a solar retro-fit

Adelaide Advertiser
Thursday 23/4/2009 Page: 51

Norwood-based solar company ZEN Home Energy Systems has won the state's first council-driven tender to install discounted solar panels on homes in the Fleurieu Peninsula and Barossa regions. Under the Community Purchase of Renewable Energy Program (C-PREP) initiated by the Victor Harbor Council, ZEN will retro-fit premises in the council regions of Victor Harbor, Alexandrina, Yankalilla and Kangaroo Islandand in the Fleurieu Peninsula region, creating 30 to 40 jobs.

The councils voted this week to award the tender to ZEN. They are encouraging local households and companies to register for the program, which will enable households eligible for the government rebate (and which sign up before June 30, 2009) to buy an entry-level 1kW solar system for just $1995, fully installed. ZEN hopes to install a "couple of thousand" panels in the regions, with the Fleurieu and Barossa regions covering more than 40.000 homes.

Council representatives stepped in to cut the deal for the householders for a registration fee of $75 by offering the supplier a bulk deal in return for a rebate discount on the systems. The registration money will be transferred to establish an R&D fund with ZEN and an SA University, which would look at developing a solar/ wind prototype energy plant. "Our company has won similar work with councils in the eastern states of Australia. but this is the biggest by far," ZEN chief executive Richard Turner said.

ZEN was selected on its ability to provide a high quality system with a significant bulk purchase discount, create local jobs and participate in an R&D program, Victor Harbor Mayor Mary Lou Corcoran said. "We're looking to realise the reduction of our carbon footprint right across the peninsula and will be measuring each installation and reporting it to both state and federal governments," Ms Corcoran said.

Environmental ball dropped amid financial crisis

Canberra Times
Thursday 23/4/2009 Page: 21

Kevin Rudd needs to get back to his climate change position from last year's 2020 Summit, Ian Lowe writes
At the 2020 Summit last year, Kevin Rudd said climate change is "the over-arching issue" that should inform all policy choices. Twelve months later, he has dropped the ball. Distracted by the financial crisis and snowed by a campaign of systematic misinformation from the big polluters, he has only been able to put forward the hopeless carbon pollution reduction scheme.

With an inadequate target and no allowance for voluntary efforts, it would do little to reduce Australia's greenhouse pollution. The handouts to the dirtiest industries are so generous it has been dubbed the Conspicuous Polluters Reward Scheme. Worse, it would lock in this inadequate response for a decade. If other nations follow our lead, the world will be condemned to dangerous climate change. We have more to lose than any other advanced country and deserve a better response.

Kevin Rudd wrote a thoughtful article for The Monthly about the state of the world. He was about half right in his analysis of the current crisis. Most observers now see that the extreme pre-Keynesian economics espoused by Reagan and Thatcher has failed in economic terms. The global financial crisis has exposed once and for all the folly of governments leaving the economy to Adam Smith's "invisible hand".

While the "Washington consensus" has now been exposed for its economic shortcomings, it had a more serious consequence. That ideology prevented any concerted reaction to the warning in global think tank Club of Rome's Limits to Growth. It said nearly 40 years ago that continuing 1970s growth trends would produce the drastic situation we now face.

The report was belittled at the time by politicians and economists, most of whom never read the document but relied on simplistic media accounts. It showed growth in population, resource use, agricultural production, industrial output and pollution would see its reach limits by the middle of the 21st century. The most likely result, it concluded, would be a decline in natural and social systems in the early decades of this century. Recent CSIRO analysis has compared the business-as-usual future modelled by the Club of Rome with 30 years of data. It shows we are right on track for the projected decline.

The financial crisis began with the United States sub-prime mortgage debacle. That was precipitated by the impact on US suburbia of fuel prices, the first tangible indicator of "peak oil". More generally, the crisis can be sheeted Home to the failure of economists and politicians to recognise that there are biophysical limits to human activity. They assumed that growth could continue for ever. We are now paying for that naive approach.

Even such conservative bodies as the World Economic Forum are going further than Kevin Rudd, arguing that we need an integrated approach to climate change, peak oil, the financial crisis and water and food security. So our response must involve, as US President Obama realises, structural changes to slow down global warming and prepare for reduced availability of oil.

The International Energy Agency has also got the message. Until recently the agency was predicting increased use of coal, oil and nuclear energy. It is now saying the future demands "nothing short of an energy revolution".

Rather than cash handouts to encourage consumption or greater subsidies to big polluters, we must invest in a clean renewable energy supply and improving the efficiency of using energy. We should re-build our economy around the future growth industries, rather than propping tip energy-intensive production of low-value commodities.

We should invest heavily in educating our workforce and funding the research that will allow its to play a constructive role in the future lowcarbon economy. With tens of billions of dollars of public money to throw around, we should be using the resources to position its for the 21st century.

The proposal before the Senate would reward the carbon-intensive industries that have done little since the 1997 Kyoto conference to accept the new reality. If they had spent as much time and energy cleaning up their industries as they spent lobbying Canberra for special treatment, we would be well on the way to our target. Having profited from our past generosity, they now have the chutzpah to claim the hard economic times prevent them from adapting.

The Washington consensus is clearly dead, but dancing on its grave is not good enough. As he said 12 months ago, Kevin Rudd mast develop an integrated approach to secure our future. A serious emissions trading scheme is the first step.

Emeritus Professor Ian Lowe AO is president of the Australian Conservation Foundation.

Fooling with a darker shade of green

Herald Sun
Thursday 23/4/2009 Page: 63

IT IS no wonder the Federal I Government's duplicitous rhetoric on climate change continues to baffle those wondering whether the 2007 election delivered a "greener" prime minister than his predecessor. On the one hand, the government has produced a policy it claims will incentivise the economy to reduce carbon emissions-the CPRS.

The CPRS is unloved by all and sundry largely because it does little to encourage emission cuts, bugger all to increase renewable energy and even less to create "green" jobs over the next couple of decades. The acronym is increasingly being derided as the Carbon Pollution Reward Scheme (rather than Reduction) because it does too much to support the coal-fired electricity sector.

If a market mechanism has been chosen to bring about the transformation of the energy sector, why does the CPRS intend to provide polluting power generators with the means to remain viable under emissions trading? It really is a Tort and one which many industries are going to be paying for without any likelihood that the economy will become significantly greener any time soon.

Sure, the government makes token gestures that look green, but in fact it is methodically unravelling some of its predecessor's policies that genuinely encouraged renewables. When he's not saving whales, we seethe Environment Minister scampering around the countryside announcing a green initiative here and unveiling another over there.

Here are some of the headlines Peter Garrett would like to bring to our attention: "$4.2 million for Mount Barker Windfarm" ... "Hot water rebates support WA jobs" ... "Solar testing centre open for business".. . "$1.2 million puts the solar in Adelaide Solar City". And that's only from April so far. His latest announcement trumpets that the Mount Barker Windfarm will be funded under the government's Renewable Remote Power Generation Program (RRPGP) and it "delights" him that "more West Australians will be able to source renewable energy" as a result.

If that is so, why are his representatives going around telling renewable energy industry groups that funds in the RRPGP program have almost run out and that a top-up is unlikely? A spokesman for Mr Garrett told this column the funds were finite, but the government was considering other measures to support remote renewable energy. Oh, really? How ironic then that last week the minister took credit for the installation of a solar system at the MTU Detroit Diesel building in Adelaide.

While facilitating a system that will produce 20% of Detroit Diesel's energy cleanly is laudable, isn't it just a little perverse that the company is one of the main suppliers of diesel generators to remote areas? That's right ... when the subsidies for solar and wind energy to communities that are not connected to the grid dry up, Detroit Diesel, and its competitor Caterpillar, can expect demand for their polluting generators to increase.

And it will keep customers on the fossil fuel drip-feed, even though the reality is that without the subsidy, a solar system could pay for itself in two or three years - if the cost of diesel is factored in - and thereafter daytime electricity would be free. So what will the government do with the money it would have contributed towards renewable energy? Perhaps Energy Minister Martin Ferguson provided a hint yesterday in his own double-speak announcement: give some of it to Linc Energy's coal-to-liquids demo plant in Queensland, of course.

The minister said: "Technologies that convert coal and gas to ultra clean diesel and jet fuel have the potential to replace Australia's declining oil reserves." "Ultra-clean" diesel? You're kidding me! Actually, he was kidding, because a bit further on the press release mentioned that coal-to-liquids diesel would have "a carbon footprint comparable with the production of conventional fuels".

Thanks for clarifying that, Minister, and proving once again that the rhetoric being spun by the government is as dirty as carbon pollution.

Rare support for climate scheme

Sydney Morning Herald
Thursday 23/4/2009 Page: 4

THE Australian Conservation Foundation has urged politicians to approve the emissions trading scheme so it can begin next year. The foundation said while its support for the scheme was not absolute it believed the threat of climate change was so great the scheme needed to begin as soon as possible.

''This Parliament has the unique chance to promote strong action on climate change at precisely the time it is needed," Don Henry, the executive director of the foundation told a Senate committee. As a nation we have the opportunity to play a key role in averting the worst of climate change and promoting strong jobs growth in the clean economy of the future."

The foundation said it still wanted significant changes made before the scheme was passed, including a much tougher target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But even limited support for the scheme was a rarity as the Government struggled to find any enthusiasm for its model.

This week the Minister for Climate Change, Penny Wong, said if Parliament did not support the scheme Australia would be hamstrung at international negotiations this year. Senator Wong said Australia needed to show it was prepared to lower its emissions and could only do this in a meaningful way with an emissions trading scheme in place.

Yesterday Mr Henry said it was crucial Australia played a leadership role at the talks in Copenhagen. As the developed country most vulnerable to climate change, it is in Australia's strong national interest that an agreement to substantially cut global greenhouse pollution is reached this December in Copenhagen," Mr Henry said.

Mt Barker wind farm

West Australian
Thursday 23/4/2009 Page: 5

A new windfarm will be built at Mount Barker as part of the Federal Government's drive to embrace renewable energy. Environment Minister Peter Garrett, visiting Perth yesterday, announced $4.2 million in funding for the plant, as part of its target to deliver 20% of Australia's power from renewable sources by 2020. Mr Garrett said he expected wind to play a significant role in meeting the renewables target.

Merkel lays basis of green power plant

West Australian
Thursday 23/4/2009 Page: 32

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has laid the foundation stone for the world's first hybrid power station, generating electricity, heat and hydrogen - and all from renewable sources of energy. The plant near Prenzlau, north of Berlin, costs 21 million ($38.8 million) and is due to be up and running in a year, supplying hundreds of local households.

Wind energy is a highly intermittent power source with output varying greatly, often producing either too much power or not enough. However, the new plant gets around the problem, according to Enertrag, the German firm constructing it.

Any excess power is used to make hydrogen, which is either stored and sold to third parties as fuel or used with biomass to generate electricity when the plant is not producing enough. Excess heat produced in generating electricity is piped to local households and businesses for heating using a process called co-generation or combined heat and power.