Saturday 9 May 2009

Govt to boost green power use

Canberra Times
Tuesday 5/5/2009 Page: 2

The ACT Government will, from July, buy 30% of its energy requirements from renewable sources. The move is projected to prevent 8834 tonnes of carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere. Currently 23% of the energy bought by the Government comes from green sources. Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water Simon Corbell said today's ACT budget would include $3.2 million to lift that figure by 7 percentage points.

He said the move was equivalent to taking 2054 cars off ACT roads. "It was actually a Labor election commitment to increase the amount of energy purchase from renewable sources to 30% ," he said. "It's important because a government can help lead the development of renewable energy by creating more demand."

ACT Greens climate change and environment spokesman Shane Rattenbury said the plan would put ACT Government operations at the forefront of national renewable energy. "This is just the beginning - the first step along the path to 100% renewable energy use by the ACT Government, as outlined in the ALP-Greens agreement," he said.

As part of the parliamentary agreement for the current Assembly, Labor committed to a timetable for the purchase of 100% renewable electricity by the ACT Government. Mr Corbel] said the target of 100% was aspirational. "The parliamentary agreement commits us to continuing to purchase more renewable energy as a percentage and unlimitedly to achieve 100% by there is no time frame on the agreement," Mr Corbell said.

He said further increases in the ACT Government's use of renewable energy would depend on cost. But the agreement indicates the ACT Government's renewable energy use will be 50% by 2011. The amount of electricity used by the ACT Government in 2005-06 was about 141.8 million kWh and accounted for more than 5% of electricity sales in the territory.

Carbon scheme delayed by year - Reduction target of 25pc

Canberra Times
Tuesday 5/5/2009 Page: 1

The Rudd Government will delay the start of its greenhouse emissions trading scheme for a year to help Australian industries adapt to the global economic crisis. Announcing key changes in Canberra yesterday, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said the threat of global recession meant the Government had to "adapt our climate change measures, but not abandon them".

The Government still wants legislation to establish the emissions trading scheme to be passed by the Senate this year, despite delaying its start date to July 1, 2011. Industry and environment groups have generally welcomed the changes, describing them as practical and inevitable, but Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull has dismissed the revamp as "panicked tinkering".

The announcement comes as Labor has taken a hit in the polls. Today's Newspoll has Labor's primary support dropping five points to 42% , compared with a one-point rise for the Coalition to 38% and a two-point rise for the Greens to 11% . Mr Turnbull was steady at 19% , while Mr Rudd dropped three points to 64% .

Greens deputy leader Christine Milne said the Government had "browned down" its emissions trading scheme, adding $2.2 billion to an already-generous assistance package for big polluters. The scheme's overhaul includes a tougher, but conditional, emissions reduction target of 25% by 2020, a low fixed price of $10 a tonne for carbon in the scheme's first year in 2011, and a 5% increase in free permits for high polluting export industries such as steel, cement and aluminium.

Mr Rudd said the changes showed the Government had consulted widely and been willing to listen to, and accommodate, criticisms. "This is big stuff for the nation. It's one of those things that we mast get right for the long haul ... We think we have got the balance right. "This is hard policy, difficult policy. "But one thing I know for certain is that every business organisation we have spoken to wants a certain investment environment for the future."

Mr Rudd said the Government had been particularly "listening to households and the contributions which they wish to make voluntarily" to the scheme. As a result, the Government will establish an Australian Carbon Trust to allow households to snake tax-deductible investments on cutting greenhouse emissions and boosting energy efficiency. The $76 million carbon trust will incorporate a $50 million energy efficiency trust and a $26 million energy efficiency savings pledge fund.

The Prime Minister said individuals and households would be able to calculate their home energy use, and pledge contributions to the energy efficiency savings fund to offset their emissions. These contributions would be tax deductible, and be used by the pledge fund "to buy and cancel carbon pollution permits equivalent to that level of energy use".

A new government website will provide a one-stop shop for people to calculate home energy use, and buy and retire carbon pollution permits under the Government's carbon trading scheme. Mr Rudd said the pledge fund would pool pledges, so "even small amounts can combine to make a big difference". A new "global recession buffer" will be provided as part of an assistance package for high pollution industries, with a 5 and 10% increase in free permits, depending on eligibility.

The Mine Minister said the Government remained committed to reducing carbon pollution by 5% against 2000 levels by 2020. "We now commit to reduce carbon pollution by 25% by 2000 levels by 2020 if the world agrees to an ambitious global deal to stabilise levels of carbon dioxide equivalent in the atmosphere by at least 450 parts per million by 2050.

This of course ... is an outcome consistent with Australia having the prospect of saving the Barrier Reef." Australian Industry Group chief executive Heather Ridout said the changes would give "absolutely vital, critical breathing space" to businesses. The ACTU said the changes would protect jobs in exposed, high-emissions industries.

But the revamped scheme still faces tough opposition in the Senate, with Independent South Australian senator Nick Xenophon dismissing the changes as window-dressing. "If you give a lame duck a hair-cut, it is still a lame duck," he said. Family First senator Steve Fielding said he would oppose it.

Expert says plan now for windfall

Adelaide Advertiser
Tuesday 5/5/2009 Page: 39

THE State Government should start infrastructure spending to increase its capacity for wind energy, a visiting international wind expert has said. Speaking at the International Wind Energy Conference in Adelaide last week, Marc-Antoine Renaud from the German based World Wind Energy Association said the financial downturn was an opportune moment to expand South Australia's grid capabilities.

"The Government must invest heavily in grid connections and this must be done at the moment with the economic turmoil because all governments are coming up with infrastructure packages and this is infrastructure that could be deployed readily," he said. "It is the same concept as building roads."

However, State Environment Minister Jay Weatherill said there was doubt over the potential for new windfarms in the state. "Over the last six years in South Australia we have really become a leader in the deployment of renewable energy but it is also true that we are facing an uncertain future," he said.

"Investment in other states is looking more and more attractive ... it does raise the question as to whether this beautiful friendship between South Australia and wind energy is going to continue." "It is possible we have taken wind energy as far as we can go in South Australia, at least in the short to medium term."

Rudd delays, amends emissions scheme

Adelaide Advertiser
Tuesday 5/5/2009 Page: 1

PRIME Minister Kevin Rudd has bowed to intense pressure, amending and delaying the full introduction of his unpopular carbon pollution reduction scheme and allowing householders to join in. The changes to the scheme include stronger medium-term targets aimed at garnering previously absent green support and extra assistance for business to protect jobs.

"The Government has ... been listening to households and the contributions which they wish to make voluntarily to this carbon pollution reduction scheme, " Mr Rudd said yesterday. Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull instantly labelled the announcement as a "humiliating backdown" but Mr Rudd insisted it was the right decision.

"This is serious stuff for the nation," Mr Rudd said. "It is fundamentally important we get it right in terms of dealing with the recession impact on businesses now, holding out a real prospect for our negotiators acting internationally to get a strong outcome in Copenhagen at the end of the year. "(It's about) getting that balance right as well as reflecting our attentiveness to what households are saying about their desire to contribute voluntarily as well."

Concerned householders will be able to calculate their carbon output and buy permits to pollute, effectively taking these permits out of circulation. Because the scheme will have a set number of permits for trading, permits bought in this way will not be available to polluting industries, thus reducing the amount of pollution able to be pumped into the atmosphere.

These permits will be bought by a new Australian Carbon Trust - Energy Efficiency Savings Pledge Fund, which will pool donations to buy the permits. Another division of the Australian Carbon Trust will use $50 million in Commonwealth seed funding to finance energy-efficiency measures in businesses upfront, with these funds paid back by the business according to the cost savings they generate.

The decision to delay the introduction of the CPRS is a major backdown reflecting the reality that the scheme has to date attracted few enthusiasts outside the Government and was headed for certain defeat in the Senate where the Opposition and independents were lining up to vote it down. Stronger emissions reduction targets have been included to woo the green lobby and environmentally conscious voters after the previous targets were widely ridiculed as inadequate.

Under the revised plan, the proposed range of cuts moves from a minimum 5% of 2000 levels with a maximum of 15% , to a maximum of 25% subject to international agreement at the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen later this year. Mr Rudd said the 25% global cut would be sufficient to save the Great Barrier Reef - an admission the previous, more modest targets would doom the natural wonder to destruction from global warming.

But the beleaguered scheme still faces a rocky future in the Senate because the Opposition intends to vote against it, describing the moves as "policy on the run" and mere "tinkering at the edges". Independent Senator Nick Xenophon agreed, calling the changes "window dressing" on a fundamentally flawed scheme. Greens leader Bob Brown said the outcome could "hardly be more disappointing". Mr Rudd described the delayed commencement as appropriate for business in the context of the global recession but claimed solid support from key business groups because the new scheme would provide business with much-needed investment certainty.

Aware of the internal difficulties confronting Mr Turnbull, whose party room is divided on the need for an emissions trading scheme, Mr Rudd called on the real Mr Turnbull to come forward. "The Liberal Leader has stated that these goals are shared by the Liberal Party in terms of action on climate change," he said. "Goals shared in relation to a slower start, goals also shared, I note, from earlier comments, for the need for more ambitious targets overall."

But Mr Turnbull said the Government should now use the extra time gained from delaying the scheme to get its policy right. "Now that he's said that his scheme needn't start until 2011, there is absolutely no need for the legislation to be rushed through Parliament in the next five or six weeks."

Among the proposed changes is softer start-up conditions for business. Industries most affected by the new price on carbon will get additional compensation to assist in meeting the costs of transitioning to the new scheme and the carbon price itself will be pegged at an extraordinarily low $10 a tonne for the first year of operation.

This date of operation has been delayed from July 1, 2010, to July 1, 2011, but will not be fully operational until July 2012. It is understood the process to change fundamental aspects of the CPRS began a fortnight ago during a secret meeting in Mr Rudd's office involving Climate Change Minister Penny Wong, parliamentary secretary for climate change Greg Combet and senior advisers.

Friday 8 May 2009

Households, small business pay for switch to green energy

West Australian
Saturday 2/5/2009 Page: 4

WA household and small business power bills could jump at least 10% over the next decade to pay for a national plan to generate 20% of electricity from renewable sources by 2020, according to Office of Energy figures. But power-intensive big business will be largely exempt from the charges because of the global financial crisis and their role in the separate emissions trading scheme, due to start next year.

Under the renewable energy target, announced after the Council of Australian Governments meeting on Thursday, WA households could be slugged in order to fund the $1 billion - plus required to improve the State's infrastructure to make the scheme viable. The spending would be needed to join new windfarms and other renewable energy sources such as solar to the existing power grid.

The increase would be on top of a previously announced 26% lift in power bills from July, which is designed to bring the price of electricity in line with its true cost. Energy Minister Peter Collier said yesterday that some of the renewable energy target's costs may be offset by deep cuts to an existing $6 billion proposal by Western Power to upgrade its network.

"I think it's inevitable that the initial submission from Western Power will not be met," he said. Mr Collier said that while Western Power's proposal was currently before the industry watchdog, it was likely the economic slowdown would generate cost savings in the submission which could be spent elsewhere. Western Power chief Doug Aberle warned of risks to the reliability of the electricity supply if its proposal was rejected. About 4% of the State's electricity supply was currently from renewable sources, mainly wind.

Synergy Energy corporate affairs chief Andrew Gaspar said that 20% was an ambitious target which would need to be met by a mix of renewable energy types to ensure a reliable electricity supply because wind was an intermittent source. Sustainable Energy Association chief Ray Wills said new ways of producing power, such as solar panels, would reduce the need for expensive networks.

Big polluters win exemption from renewable energy

Sydney Morning Herald
Friday 1/5/2009 Page: 5

THE Rudd Government has given big polluters a break by allowing them a generous exemption from contributing to the nation's mandated renewable energy target. The backdown, aimed at truing to secure big industry support for the Government's emissions trading scheme, was agreed to at yesterday's Council of Australian Governments meeting in Hobart.

The exemption means it is likely households and lesser polluting industries will have to meet the increased cost of the move to more environmentally friendly energy. The Government has set a target of having 20% of the nation's electricity generated by renewable sources by 2020. This is the equivalent of 45,000 gigawatt-hours.

The big polluters - known as emissions-intensive, trade exposed industry - will be exempt from using renewable energy above a target of 9500 gigawatt hours. The industries, which include cement, aluminium and sections of the mining sector, have already been promised transitional assistance to help them adapt to the Government's proposed emissions trading scheme.

However. the industries believe the assistance is inadequate and are resisting the scheme, saying it will force jobs to countries where no emissions trading scheme exists. The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, said yesterday the exemption "recognised the impact" of the mandatory renewable energy target in the context of the emissions trading scheme and the additional pressures caused by the recession.

The Greens senator Christine Milne said the exemption was further evidence the big political parties were uniting with big business against the climate and the community. The Climate Institute Australia called the exemption "perverse, but not poisonous, and shouldn't hold up the implementation of the [mandatory renewable energy scheme]". The meeting also agreed to new energy efficiency standards for new homes and commercial buildings. This prompted the industry to warn the cost of new homes would rise.

Mr Rudd vowed yesterday to crash or crash through with the Government's emissions trading scheme. It will go before a hostile Senate by June. The Greens want the scheme to cut greenhouse gases by 40% by 2020. The Government's scheme will set a target between 5 and 15 % . It believes the Greens' targets to be "economic lunacy". Senator Milne refused to yield yesterday and the Government has all but conceded its best hope of passing the legislation lies with the Liberals.

It is urging big business to put pressure on the Liberal Party, but the Opposition climate change spokesman, Andrew Robb, remained steadfast yesterday. He said Labor's scheme was a massive risk and he left open the possibility of the Coalition adopting a carbon tax instead of an emissions trading scheme. He backed his case with a report by the Centre for International Economics that the Coalition commissioned.

It is critical of aspects of Labor's policy and believes further modelling and analysis is needed on its effects. However, the Climate Change Minister, Penny Won-,, said yesterday many of the report's findings supported the Government's scheme. These included supporting a carbon price.

Green bonus for first-home buyers

Summaries - Australian Financial Review
Thursday 30/4/2009 Page: 1

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is to push for a national co-ordinated strategy to improve energy efficiency in new homes at today's Council of Australian Governments meeting. Mr Rudd is calling on the states to support a six-star energy rating for all new homes built after 2010 following a warning by the Energy Supply Association of Australia, the Energy Users Association and the Business Council of Australia that duplication was adding extra costs to the building industry.

The Australian Conservation Foundation, the Australian Council of Trade Unions, The Australian Council of Social Service and the Climate Institute Australia also said this week that a co-ordinated strategy would help achieve the Government's aim to reduce emissions, especially if its emissions trading scheme is rejected by the Senate later this year. The cost of the mandatory building code would be offset by a revamp of the first-home buyers scheme, which is due to end in its current form on June 30.

Brisbane outfit figures in historic carbon trade

Courier Mail
Thursday 30/4/2009 Page: 34

THE owner of a coal power station yesterday began to deal with major costs it will face under an emissions trading scheme by signing the first firm carbon trading deal between two Australian parties. Victoria's Loy Yang Power signed a contract with Brisbane-based commodities trader and risk manager Arcadia Energy Trading. Under the agreement, AET will deliver in late 2011 offsets or credits covering a small portion of Loy Yang's greenhouse gas emissions.

Loy Yang, controlled by AGL Energy and Tokyo Electric Power Co, bought 100,000 Certified Emission Reduction units under which each unit or credit offsets one tonne of CO2,-equivalent emissions. Credits come from carbon reduction projects in developing nations as part of the United Nations-monitored Clean Development Mechanism. They are traded on the European Climate Exchange.

Last May AGL Energy and Westpac signed the first trade in Australian carbon pollution permits at $19 a tonne but this was largely symbolic given Australian units don't yet exist. Yesterday's contract price wasn't disclosed. The Australian Securities Exchange plans to launch futures contracts for renewable energy credits, natural gas and coal before the start of carbon futures trading some time during the year.

AET's general manager of trading, James Gillard, said yesterday's landmark deal showed corporate Australia was beginning to actively manage its greenhouse gas costs. Loy Yang Power said: "Despite our significant concerns regarding the viability of the proposed (emissions trading) legislation, it is very important that LYP supports the development of a liquid secondary market for the trading of carbon to ensure LYP is able to manage its carbon risk effectively."

A chance to renew clean energy incentives

Herald Sun
Thursday 30/4/2009 Page: 51

IT WAS anything but full steam ahead for Australian geothermal pioneer GeoDynamics this past week as it contemplated the implications of the accident that closed down its first renewable energy demonstration plant at Innamincka. The pint-sized 1MW geothermal electricity generator was to be commissioned this week, with an official opening next month.

It would have been a timely event, coinciding with expectations that today's Council of Australian Governments meeting in Hobart will finally give its blessings to the long awaited renewable energy target. The target will force the electricity sector to produce 20% of its power from renewables by 2020 or face penalties.

There have been reports this week that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd would urge COAG premiers and ministers to strengthen incentives for zero emissions power generation in the renewable energy target legislation. While government sources could not confirm those reports yesterday, they could confirm that the target will be on the COAG agenda. And here is something else that can be confirmed for the benefit of all those organisations who oppose the target: unless electricity retailers decide to rip customers off, the target will help to reduce - that's right, reduce - the cost of power.

What a clever policy. . . it assists carbon pollution reduction by displacing power from fossil fuels, incentivises new investment and jobs in the clean energy sector and avoids the use of peaking plants, which are the real drivers of higher electricity costs. It is incomprehensible that vocal lobbyists for polluters and energy intensive industries are not embracing the target. Instead they are whingeing that when "the inevitable" power price hikes flow from the target, they will want more hand-outs. Get this: the price hikes are not inevitable.

Get these: a CRA International study for the National Generators Forum last year, plus reports from ACIL Tasman and ROAM Consulting, all showing through their modelling and expertise in energy markets that wholesale electricity prices will fall sharply when the target is introduced.

You read it first in this column in February, and in case you missed it, it goes like this: loading the grid with extra power from wind and solar generators will remove the need to fire up gas plants when demand peaks and existing electricity supply cannot keep up. It is when peaking gas plants swing into action to top up supply that wholesale electricity prices go through the roof. Such episodes account for about a third of the total yearly wholesale take.

Displace the need for these extraordinary pricing episodes and the wholesale price settles down to a more comfortable average. Instead of bemoaning the onset of the target, energy customers ought to be calling for stronger targets like those in other parts of the world. According to a REN21 report, Austria's is 78% by 2010; Sweden's 60% by 2010; Portugal's 45% by 2010; Spain's 29% by 2010; and Denmark's 29% by 2010.

In these countries, they are predominantly relying on solar, wind, tidal and geothermal energy to meet their targets - and note that those targets are 10 years ahead of Australia's. In this country, we have the greatest combined resources of solar, wind, tidal and geothermal energy. There is no decent excuse for not developing these as sources of electricity. But until the Federal Government strengthens incentives for developing a strong renewable energy industry, investors will not underwrite the necessary infrastructure.

The absence of major submissions from renewable energy companies - and there are hundreds of them around the world - to the government's draft renewable energy target legislation speaks volumes. Nations where power companies are building renewable energy generation, some with storage to allow for overnight electricity demand, offer many different incentives that have created millions of green jobs.

If the Government truly wants to see more renewable energy deployed here, it needs to make its incentives more internationally competitive. Otherwise, clean energy companies will continue to steer clear of Australia.

Olga Galacho
Phone: 9292 1775

B&B Wind Partners Name approved

Adelaide Advertiser
Thursday 30/4/2009 Page: 41

Babcock and Brown Wind Partners' shareholders have approved the company's name change, finalising its separation from its troubled parent. At an extraordinary general meeting yesterday, shareholders approved the change to Infigen Energy. Infigen was derived from the words infinite and generation, reflecting the infinite availability of wind and BBW's business of renewable energy.

Energy laws get update

Adelaide Advertiser
Thursday 30/4/2009 Page: 41

Petroleum and geothermal energy laws will be improved under proposed legislation introduced into State Parliament yesterday. Mineral Resources Development Minister Paul Holloway said the Petroleum (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill 2009 aimed to keep the legislation ahead of advances in the hot rock energy and greenhouse gas storage sectors.

The legislation would strengthen the provisions for gas storage to encourage greenhouse gas abatement, provide for enhanced competition in the processing sector and enhance the landowner notice of entry and compensation provisions. "These changes are supported by the petroleum and geothermal industries and follow extensive consultation," Mr Holloway said.

Energy laws get update

Adelaide Advertiser
Thursday 30/4/2009 Page: 41

Petroleum and geothermal energy laws will be improved under proposed legislation introduced into State Parliament yesterday. Mineral Resources Development Minister Paul Holloway said the Petroleum (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill 2009 aimed to keep the legislation ahead of advances in the hot rock energy and greenhouse gas storage sectors.

The legislation would strengthen the provisions for gas storage to encourage greenhouse gas abatement, provide for enhanced competition in the processing sector and enhance the landowner notice of entry and compensation provisions. "These changes are supported by the petroleum and geothermal industries and follow extensive consultation," Mr Holloway said.

Monday 4 May 2009

Britain to help China on carbon capture
Sunday 3 May 2009

Move to share technology may help Britain meet Kyoto promise but could be seen as squandering business opportunities Britain will share the benefits of its investment in carbon capture and storage technology with China and other developing countries, the energy secretary, Ed Miliband, said today. The move may help Britain to belatedly meet its Kyoto Protocol promise to pass on low-carbon technology to help poorer countries reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

However, questions may arise over how much should be given away for free and how much the UK should exploit the business opportunities of being a potential leader in the industry. "We're approaching this from the mindset where we can co-operate more with China on things like carbon capture and storage," Miliband said.

While not abandoning the industrial potential of being a leader in the field, he said Britain could benefit from transferring knowledge. "Eventually we hope to see this technology across the world because coal is something that is used in many countries and the key to that is making it a clean fuel of the future."

Miliband is visiting Beijing to try to forge common ground with Chinese officials ahead of crucial climate change talks later this year in Copenhagen. Britain hopes China will set voluntary targets to reduce the energy and carbon intensity of an economy that recently overtook the US as the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. The central goal of China's mandarins is financial support and the transfer of clean coal and other low-carbon technology from richer nations. China is also pioneering its own solutions, as Milliband saw at the world's only commercially operating carbon capture facility, Huaneng Beijing cogeneration power plant.

Developed with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Australia and opened last July, the facility is on a relatively small scale but it claims 85% efficiency in capturing 3,000 tonnes of carbon each year. The recycled product is used for carbonated drinks and dry ice. "The technology has been successful here so we can say it will be successful in other coal-fired plants," said the general manager, Cai Hongwang. "We could scale this up. We are now considering the market demand for carbon dioxide."

If production is ramped up, the captured carbon could be used for enhanced oil recovery or, in the longer term, possibly pumped into the deep ocean. Britain is considering sequestration of carbon in cavities under the North Sea bed that have been emptied of oil. Several similar experiments will soon be launched in other parts of China, which is investing heavily in research into reducing the climate impact of coal. More than 70% of China's electricity is generated by coal. Over the next 10 years, the amount burned is expected to double.

According to the Chinese Academy of Science, a plant in Shanxi will capture carbon and use it as fertiliser, while another in Shaanxi may pump captured carbon into oil deposits to extract the fuel. "It is better to convert carbon dioxide into products, but the demand is limited," said Xiao Yunhan, a government adviser and energy expert at the academy. "Sequestration will be the final solution for carbon dioxide control. But before that we should try other things."

To enhance technology transfer and co-operation on low-carbon projects, Miliband will tomorrow launch a £10m joint venture with the Carbon Trust and the Chinese Development Corporation to encourage British firms to enter the Chinese market. He will give a speech at Peking University calling on China to take a leadership role in climate talks. "As an emergent great power, China, too, has the ability not just to act but to lead; to be great not just in size but in influence; to energise others around the world" he will say.

Wind farm's radar system stops birds getting the chop
Mon, 4 May 09

Texas claims world first in using Nasa technology to spare migrating species

It could be considered an air traffic control system for birds who have flown perilously off course. A windfarm in southern Texas, situated on a flight path used by millions of birds each autumn and spring, is pioneering the use of radar technology to avoid deadly collisions between a 2,500lb rotating blade and bird.

US windfarms kill about 7,000 birds a year, according to a recent study. Other studies of individual windfarms suggest a higher toll on bats and birds, which crash into towers, blades, power lines and other installations. Estimates from a single windfarm in Altamont, California showed as many as 1,300 birds of prey killed each year - or about three a day.

Such direct threats to wildlife, and concern for habitats, have increasingly pitted conservationists against the renewable energy industry. A handful of wind energy projects in the US have been shelved because of wildlife concerns. But it is claimed that radar technology now in use at the Penascal windfarm in Texas has found a balance between competing environmental concerns - taking action against global warming and protecting wildlife - by protecting migrating birds at times of peak danger.

The 202 MW farm, operated by the Spanish firm Iberdrola Renewables, is the first in the world to use radar systems to enable it to shut down automatically if bad weather hits in peak migration times. The installation, which opened late last month, uses radar systems originally developed for Nasa and the US air force to detect approaching birds from as far as four miles away, analyse weather conditions, and then determine whether they are in danger of flying into the rotating blades.

If they are, the turbines are programmed to shut down, restarting once the birds are safely on their way, said Gary Andrews, the chairman of DeTect Inc, the Florida company which developed the technology. The system spots the birds and assesses their altitude, numbers and the visibility. "With all these pieces coming together properly ... the turbines will shut down," said Andrews.

The Penascal windfarm is located on the Central Flyway, a main route for migratory birds in the Americas. Millions of birds funnel through the narrow air corridor during the semi-annual migration. A study in the autumn of 2007 found 4,000 birds an hour passing overhead. More than 30 species of warbler alone fly the route, with water fowl, raptors and hawks.

In ordinary circumstances, the birds would be thousands of feet above the windfarm, passing the turbines without incident. But that can change dramatically in a sudden storm. "The birds may be very vulnerable," said Christopher Shackleford, an ornithologist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Andrews says his radar systems can avoid such consequences - and the windfarm would be forced to close only between 40 to 60 hours during peak migration times.

But conservationists say that windfarms should still be sited away from migration routes, and that the technology does nothing to solve the problem of installations that disturb bird and animal habitats and nesting grounds. "The bottom line with wind energy is that it has great potential but it must be done correctly," said Doug Inkley. a senior scientist at the National Wildlife Federation.

'Safe' climate means 'no to coal'
29 April 2009

By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website
About three-quarters of the world's fossil fuel reserves must be left unused if society is to avoid dangerous climate change, scientists warn. More than 100 nations support the goal of keeping temperature rise below 2C. But the scientists say that without major curbs on fossil fuel use, 2C will probably be reached by 2050. Writing in Nature, they say politicians should focus on limiting humanity's total output of CO2 rather than setting a "safe" level for annual emissions.

The UN climate process focuses on stabilising annual emissions at a level that would avoid major climate impacts. But this group of scientists says that the cumulative total provides a better measure of the likely temperature rise, and may present an easier target for policymakers.

"To avoid dangerous climate change, we will have to limit the total amount of carbon we inject into the atmosphere, not just the emission rate in any given year," said Myles Allen from the physics department at University of Oxford. "Climate policy needs an exit strategy; as well as reducing carbon emissions now, we need a plan for phasing out net emissions entirely."

Forty years The UN climate convention, agreed at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, commits countries to avoiding "dangerous" climate change, without defining what that is. The EU proposed some years ago that restricting the rise to 2C from pre-industrial times was a reasonable threshold, and it has since been adopted by many other countries, although some - particularly small islands - argue that even 2C would result in dangerous impacts. Temperatures have already risen by about 0.7C during the industrial age.

Dr Allen's analysis suggests that if humanity's CO2 emissions total more than about one trillion tonnes of carbon, the 2C threshold is likely to be breached; and that could come within a lifetime. "It took us 250 years to burn the first half trillion," he said, "and on current projections we'll burn the next half trillion in less than 40 years." Inherent uncertainties in the modelling mean the temperature rise from the trillion tonnes could be between 1.3C and 3.9C, Dr Allen's team calculates, although the most likely value would be 2C.

Oil change The "trillion tonnes" analysis is one of two studies published in Nature by a pool of researchers that includes the Oxford group and scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Change Impact Research in Germany. The second study, led by Potsdam's Malte Mainshausen, attempted to work backwards from the 2C goal, to find out what achieving it might mean in practice.

It suggests that the G8 target of halving global emissions by 2050 (from 1990 levels) would leave a significant risk of breaching the 2C figure. "Only a fast switch away from fossil fuels will give us a reasonable chance to avoid considerable warming," said Dr Mainshausen.

"If we continue burning fossil fuels as we do, we will have exhausted the carbon budget in merely 20 years, and global warming will go well beyond 2C." If policymakers decided they were happy to accept a 25% chance of exceeding 2C by 2050, he said, they must also accept that this meant cutting emissions by more than 50%.

That would mean only burning about a quarter of the carbon in the world's known, economically-recoverable fossil fuel reserves. This is likely to consist mainly of oil and natural gas, leaving coal as a redundant fuel unless its emissions could be captured and stored. Both analyses support the view of the Stern Review and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in suggesting that making reductions earlier would be easier and cheaper than delaying.

But according to Potsdam's Bill Hare, a co-author on the second paper, some key governments appear to favour pledging milder cuts in the near term in return for more drastic ones in decades to come. "We have a number of countries - the US, Japan, Brazil - saying 'we will emit higher through to 2020 and then go down faster'," he said. "That might be true geophysically, but we cannot find any economic model where emissions can fall in the range that this work shows would be necessary - around 6% per year."

Major intervention Myles Allen's group has made the argument before that focussing on humanity's entire carbon dioxide output makes more scientific and political sense than aiming to define a particular "safe" level of emissions, or to plot a pathway assigning various ceilings to various years.

Some greenhouse gases, such as methane, have a definable lifetime in the atmosphere, meaning that stabilising emissions makes sense; but, said Dr Allen, CO2 "doesn't behave like that". "There are multiple levers acting on its concentration and it does tend to accumulate; also models have to represent the possibility of some feedback between rising temperatures and emissions, such as parts of the land turning from carbon sinks into sources, for example."

The Nature papers emerge in a week that has seen the inaugural meeting of President Obama's Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, a new version of a body created under President Bush that brings together 17 of the world's highest-emitting countries for discussion and dialogue. During the opening segment, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton re-affirmed the administration's aim of cutting US emissions by 80% from 1990 levels by 2050 - a target espoused by some other developed countries.

But according to Malte Meinshausen's analysis, even this reduction may not be enough to keep the average global temperature rise within 2C, assuming less developed nations made less stringent cuts in order to aid their development. "If the US does 80%, that equates to about 60% globally, and that offers only a modest chance of meeting the 2C target," he said.

Last week saw the publication of data showing that industrialised countries' collective emissions rose by about 1% during 2007.