Friday 5 June 2009

Aust `at risk of losing its 10 place in sun' in solar race

Canberra Times
Wednesday 3/6/2009 Page: 2

Australia risks losing the high-tech job skills needed to export or understand new solar technologies unless it boosts support for homegrown innovation, a report says. An analysis of solar energy patents filed in Australia over the past five years shows Australian inventors are already struggling to make a major commercial impact in one of the world's fastest-growing renewable energy industries.

The report, by Melbourne patent attorneys Griffith Hack, says Australia is "losing its place in the sun" and falling well behind a number of other countries in supporting solar energy innovation. Although Australia has produced two of the world's leading solar innovators - solar photovoltaic billionaire Dr Zhengrong Shi, and solar water heater pioneer Dr David Mills - both were forced to move overseas after failing to secure government backing for their technologies.

The Griffith Hack report shows the number of Australian solar energy patent applications rose from 67 in 2003 to 135 in 2008, but this was caused by a surge in overseas patent registrations. Australian solar energy patent applications fell from 36% to 19% over the live-year period, while the number of patents registered in Australia by United States applicants quadrupled.

The leading solar patent applicant in Australia was BP, followed by Japanese companies Canon and Fujikura, Queensland company Solar Systems, Princeton University, General Electric, Nippon Kayaku and the Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands. The top Australian enterprises were Solar Systems (11 patent applications), the University of New South Wales (7 patents) Rheem (6), the Australian National University (five) and Queanbeyan company Dyesol (4).

Director of the ANU's centre for sustainable energy systems, Professor Andrew Blakers said the report reinforced the need for a massive expansion in government support for solar energy technology. "This support should focus strongly upon generation of intellectual property, so that in the future Australia can build major industries around the manufacture and export of intellectual property rich products and services."

Professor Blakers said spending initiatives announced in the recent federal budget of $1.6 billion for solar flagships were welcome, but a similar sum should be invested in supporting commercial production of Australian innovation. ANU energy systems engineer Dr Klaus Weber and Professor Blakers are co-inventors of sliver cells - silicon wafers predicted to revolutionise photovoltaic energy by cutting the size and cost of solar panels.

But despite the technology's global potential, sliver cells are struggling to achieve the backing needed to achieve large-scale commercialisation in Australia. Professor Blakers said investment was urgently needed to massively expand Australia's educational and training capacity for solar energy. "After a decade of neglect, Australia has a tiny skill base compared with the opportunities, and our universities and TAFEs need to repair this deficiency, starting immediately," he said.

Australian Greens deputy leader, Senator Christine Milne said the Griffith Hack report showed Australia's loss of jobs in clean, green technologies was "coming home to roost right now." "Instead of delivering a jobs booth in building a zero emissions economy, our governments are shackling its to 19th century polluting industries which are inexorably losing jobs and market share. There is a huge opportunity cost in tying the economy to fossil fuels and failing to get behind renewables."

Named and shamed at climate talks

Canberra Times
Wednesday 3/6/2009 Page: 2

Australia is off to a bad start at the United Nations climate talks in Bonn, winning the event's first Fossil of the Day award for "inadequate" and ''obnoxious'' emissions reduction targets. The daily award is decided by delegates from more than 450 non government groups from around the world, attending the 12-day climate treaty summit.

The Fossil award citation claims Australia's revised target of a conditional emissions cut of 25% by 2020 is too low and "puts unreasonable conditions on other countries". Australian Greens deputy leader Christine Milne has endorsed the award, saying the fact Australia was the first recipient "shows how unhelpful the Rudd Government's target is".

Senator Milne's strongly worded comments suggest impending negotiations between the Greens and the Rudd Government to secure the passage of its emissions trading scheme through the Senate may be headed for an impasse that will scupper the scheme. Federal climate change minister Penny Wong yesterday was more optimistic, and suggested the Rudd Government and the Greens were "not coming from opposite ends" in their negotiations. " I think the Greens are of the view that climate change is something that has to be responded to.

People who have voted for the Greens, who voted for the Rudd Labor Government, many of them want action taken on climate change. We do start from the same place," Senator Wong said. But Senator Milne said the award made it clear nobody wanting an effective outcome from the UN talks in Bonn "is impressed by the Rudd Government's inadequate emissions reduction offer".

The Bonn talks, which involve delegates from 108 countries, will debate a 53-page negotiating text to develop a draft treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol. The draft will then be considered by governments attending the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change's annual conference in Copenhagen in December.

The Rudd Government has committed Australia to a cut of between 5 and 25% below 2000 greenhouse levels depending on the level of international agreement reached. This is a 24% cut below 1990 levels. "If Australia goes to Copenhagen having legislatively locked out the option of accepting a target stronger than 24%, it can only lower the level of ambition from other countries and undermine the chances of a strong global agreement," Senator Milne said. The Greens want the government to commit to 40% cuts below 1990 levels by 2020.

Craton's powerful potential

Adelaide Advertiser
Wednesday 3/6/2009 Page: 58

SA-BASED exploration company Southern Gold has "strong confidence" in the geothermal potential of its Gawler Craton site as it moves to stage two of development at its Roxby project. The progress follows the announcement of a 260,000 petajoule resource at the renamed Roxby Geothermal Project, formerly called the Torrens Project.

The hot rocks resource covers about 5% of the total area of the Roxby project and lies directly in the path of high-voltage power lines linking Olympic Dam and the Prominent Hill copper mine with the electricity hub at Port Augusta.Southern Gold managing director Stephen Biggins said development strategies to secure the site's commercial potential would include logging temperatures in deep drill holes.

"The initial resource estimate positions Southern Gold to apply for the next stage of Federal funding under the Government's $50 million Geothermal Drilling Program," he said. "Having reliable power supplies generated close by should provide a significant boost for mining projects proposed in the region."

Household solar power laws at risk. state warns

Tuesday 2/6/2009 Page: 5

THE State Government has warned it will abandon controversial household solar energy laws rather than accept Greens amendments to make it more financially attractive to install rooftop panels. Due to be introduced into the upper house this week, the bill would pay households a premium rate for home-generated solar electricity fed into the power grid.

The Age revealed in January that an expert analysis commissioned by the Government found the bill would do little to encourage people to install solar energy or cut greenhouse gas emissions. Consultants McLennan Magasanik Associates found that only a scheme that paid a premium tariff for all solar electricity, whether used at home or fed into the grid, would significantly boost the industry.

The consultants found this more generous scheme - known as a gross feed-in tariff would be affordable, increasing power bills across Victoria just $8 a year. Mr Batchelor said this was incorrect: an analysis by his office showed the real figure for a 60 cent per kW hour gross tariff was $40 a year - too much to expect households without solar panels to pay.

He said the consultants' had not modelled the exact details of the Government's scheme, and had assumed a low-level of solar energy installation that had already been surpassed. More than 5000 Victorian households have solar panels connected to the grid. "I stand by our figures," Mr Batchelor recently told a parliamentary committee.

He also said: "The fundamental problem is that rooftop (panels) are the most expensive form of electricity generation in Victoria, and they are the most inefficient, and somebody's got to pay for them." Mr Batchelor later warned against the upper house backing Greens' amendments that would force up household costs that were "unacceptable to a fair-minded Government". "If that happens (the amendments are supported) it would mean no feed-in tariff." he said.

New role for Kallis

Adelaide Advertiser
Tuesday 2/6/2009 Page: 38

Geothermal explorer Petratherm now has its own voice on the state's key industry lobby group. Managing director Terry Kallis' has been appointed to the council of the SA Chamber of Mines and Energy to represent geothermal/renewables.

SACOME is the industry association for companies with business interests in the resources industry in SA. Mr Kallis said the position gave Petratherm an opportunity to join forces with the powerful and important resources sector in promoting the geothermal and renewable energy industry.

Clear obstacles for $200b in projects, urges gas industry

Courier Mail Monday
1/6/2009 Page: 30

AUSTRALIA'S oil and gas industry wants project approval times cut, tax burdens eased and the planned emissions trading scheme's impact softened to help remove impediments to its more than $200 billion in planned projects. An Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association report released today says a target to lift annual liquefied natural gas production capacity to 50 million tonnes by 2017, from 20 million tonnes in 2008, is achievable given greenfield LNG project plans in Queensland, WA and the Northern Territory.

But it says in most cases the economics of these projects "remain challenging" and those with a go ahead decision due by late this year or early 2010 may be hurt by reduced lending and a drop in gas demand.

It says gas use is growing within Australia, largely as gas-fired power plants are promoted for emitting fewer greenhouse gas emissions than coalfired facilities. But it says gas use isn't growing at rates implied by targets calling for a doubling of gas usage for industrial purposes and a major increase in gas-fired electricity generation. The association says its vision is that the oil and gas industry soon will be seen as a "safe industry producing reliable, clean energy and substantial wealth".

An association spokeswoman couldn't say if gasfired power plants would still need to use technology currently in the experimental stage to capture and permanently store greenhouse gas emissions underground or beneath Australia's seabed. The association said bullish growth projections in some parts of the Australian gas market are being cut clue to falling investment in new mining and gas based processing projects.

Association chief executive Belinda Robinson said the recent Productivity Commission inquiry into the regulatory burden on Australia's oil and gas industry was an opportunity that could pave the way to addressing the "paralysing effect of Australia's regulatory maze", particularly for the small to midsize explorers and producers.

Nations unite to seal deal on global warming

Canberra Times
Monday 1/6/2009 Page: 7

Gruelling efforts to craft a pact on climate change enter a crucial phase today when the 192-nation UN forum takes its first look at a draft text for negotiations. The 12-day meeting in the German city of Bonn under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change means that, after 18 months of swapping visions, the process will at last get down to the gritty stuff.

Little more than six months are left before the Bali road map, launched in Indonesia in 2006, reaches its supposed destination at a Copenhagen summit: an accord that will transform global warming from a monster into a manageable problem. On the table is a small mountain of paper whose notable feature is curly brackets, denoting discord among scores of submissions.

Despite the sprawling range of proposals, convention executive secretary Yvo de Boer said he hoped the draft would be endorsed as a workable basis for talks over the coming months. "There will be a negotiating text on the table for the first time," he said. "I hope it will be well received, that it will be seen as a balanced representation of the different ideas that countries have come with."

The big goal is to slash emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050 compared with 1990 levels. But that's where consensus largely ends. Exactly how deep should be the cut be? How can it be achieved? And who should shoulder the burden? In their proposals, many developing countries say rich countries, which bear historical responsibility for today's warming, should take the lead by cutting their emissions by 25-40% by 2020.

China has led the charge, demanding a cut of at least 40%. But only the European Union, which has set its own reduction of 20% by 2020 - deepened to 30% if other advanced economies play ball - is anywhere near such a figure. After eight long years of vilification, the United States is now being warmly embraced in the climate arena as President Barack Obama bulldozes predecessor George W. Bush's policies.

But the United States is warning that the world cannot expect miracles. A Bill put before Congress would cut US emissions by 17% by 2020 over 2005 levels using a cap-and- trade system. This approach would translate to a reduction of only 4% compared with the 1990 benchmark, but it would also ratchet up to 83% by 2050, top US climate change negotiator Todd Stern said in Paris last week. "We are jumping as high as the political system will tolerate," Mr Stern said.

Just as unresolved is what emerging giant economies should do. China is now the world's biggest polluter, and Brazil and India have leapt tip the emission ranks as their economies have grown. Yet all refuse binding targets. Then there is how to muster finance to help poor countries adapt to the effects of climate change, and how to transfer clean technology so that they avoid becoming the greenhouse gas villains of the future.

These are just a few of the many obstacles besetting the Bali road map. The complexity is such that many experts now predict Copenhagen will not be a complete treaty but, at best, a good deal on the main points. US Climate Action Network's Angela Anderson said, "I think that what we are looking at in Copenhagen is a deal that will lock in some specific emission reductions goals, will create commitments both for investment and adaptation and then.., the details will have to be filled in later."

Turnbull tips carbon trading in January

Monday 1/6/2009 Page:6

OPPOSITION Leader Malcolm Turnbull says Australia could have an emissions trading scheme as early as January despite members of the Coalition still being opposed to the idea. And in a message to members of the Coalition reluctant to back emissions trading, Mr Turnbull said the "politics" of climate change would have to be considered when voting on a scheme in the Senate if it presented as a double dissolution election trigger.

Last week the Coalition announced it would support the Government's 2020 emissions reduction target but would seek a delay on voting for the legislation until after international climate change negotiations in December in Copenhagen.

"What we are putting up is a sensible approach which is to defer the vote on the scheme, not for six years, not for a year literally for about six months until after Copenhagen," Mr Turnbull told the ABC yesterday. "We could come back straight after (Copenhagen). We could come back, you know, in early January."

Liberal sources said yesterday Mr Turnbull would likely let the Nationals split on an emissions trading vote, but it is understood that only about half of all Liberal MPs currently want to deal with the Government to put to bed the emissions trading issue. The Opposition's proposed deferral led Climate Change Minister Penny Wong to indicate yesterday that the Government would "more closely" negotiate with the cross-bench parties on emissions trading.

The Greens, Family First senator Steve Fielding and independent senator NIck Xenophon have all indicated they will vote down the scheme when it comes to a Senate vote later this month unless there are radical changes. The legislation will be debated in the House of Representatives this week.

Thursday 4 June 2009

Eden Project reveals 'hot rocks' clean energy plan
1 June 2009

Geothermal plant would initially power Eden Project buildings but eventually aims to supply local community and National Grid.

The Eden Project in Cornwall, which is planning to power its buildings with a geothermal power plant. Photograph: Jonathan S Blair/Getty Plans to build the UK's first geothermal plant that would use heat from granite outcrops beneath the Earth's surface to power a small town were unveiled today.

Initially the plant would be used to supply the Eden Project in Cornwall but could potentially feed spare carbon-neutral electricity into the National Grid. Eden and its commercial partner claim, EGS Energy, believe this is the first in a series of projects that could lead to Cornwall's "hot rocks" supplying up to one-tenth of the UK's electricity. The government is watching the plans closely and Ed Miliband, the secretary of state for energy and climate change, attended the launch of the scheme in Westminster.

Matt Hastings, Eden's energy manager, said: "It's a massively exciting project - a way of making sure Eden has a source of green power but also of feeding heat and power into the local community and into the National Grid. We will only need a quarter or a fifth of the electricity that will be generated. Cornwall leads the way in wind and wave energy technology. Now we're trying to do the same in geothermal power."

For many centuries geothermal power has been used by humans but only when it bubbled or spurted naturally to the surface in the form of hot springs. Scientists have long looked for reliable and practical ways of drilling down into hot rocks and harnessing the power of the heat that is found there naturally. Cornwall is considered an ideal location for a "hot rocks" project because its granite outcrops are relatively close to the surface - around 4km (two and a half miles) down.

If it gets planning permission, the power plant at Eden will consist of two boreholes, both between 3km and 4km deep, built within the same disused clay quarry as the centre. Water will be pumped into an injection hole and then allowed to percolate through the hot rocks and heat up. The water will then be pumped back out through a second hole, returning to the surface at around 150C. The heated water will be converted into electricity via a heat exchanger.

The remaining heat in the water can be used to heat local buildings, hopefully not just at Eden but in surrounding areas. Spare heat could be used by Eden for growing exotic fruit and vegetables out of season or possibly in a spa. It is estimated that the plant, which could be ready by 2012, could generate enough electricity to supply the equivalent of almost 5,000 homes.

A spokesman said: "The energy would be 100% controllable and on an industrial scale. Above all, compared to other clean technologies, it has a small footprint above ground, and since it consists of a closed loop system its potential negative environmental impact is small." Tim Smit, the chief executive of the Eden Project, said it was a "pioneering" scheme. He added: "Powering the Eden Project site from a renewable source of energy is clearly a priority for us."

A great deal of research on hot rocks was carried out in Cornwall in the 1970s-80s. The potential for a plant was clear but none built. A plant has been built in Germany and scientists across the world from the US to Asia and Australia are looking at ways of harnessing the huge sources of power that lie beneath the earth.

There is a geothermal plant in Southampton that supplies hot, treated water to a number of customers in the city centre but the Eden scheme is different because the heat would be converted into electricity. Roy Baria, technical director of EGS Energy and formerly deputy project director at the Rosemanowes "Hot Rocks" project in Cornwall, said he hoped to take engineered geothermal systems from "academic exercise to commercial reality."

He added: "With the geology in the vicinity of the Eden Project being ideal for creating our power plant and its reservoir, we would not only expect to be able to supply virtually all of the Eden Project's power and heat requirements but generate surplus power that could be fed into the grid to help meet the government's CO2 reduction and renewable generation targets."

'Holy grail' energy project for Eden
June 02, 2009

A PIONEERING environmental project to produce "the holy grail" of renewable energy in Cornwall is being launched. The UK's first geothermal power plant – which will be built at the Eden Project if plans are successful – could revolutionise energy production by supplying a "secure, consistent and carbon-neutral source of heat and power".

EGS Energy and Eden believe the vast quantity of geothermal energy stored in the rocks below Cornwall could eventually provide up to 10 per cent of the UK's entire electricity requirements. Geothermal energy uses water heated deep underground and pumped back to the surface to drive a power station and produce carbon-neutral energy.

This source of energy has been researched in the South West for decades, but now experts insist a Cornish plant is commercially viable and point to the success of a site run by a sister company in Germany. A spokesman for EGS Energy said: "This could open up the holy grail of renewable energy – a secure, consistent carbon neutral source of both heat and power. The energy would be 100 per cent controllable and on an industrial scale. "Above all, compared to other clean technologies, it has a small footprint above ground."

The groundbreaking 21st-century scheme would harvest the natural resources below the surface in a poignant echo of Cornwall's magnificent mining history. The power plant at Eden would consist of a two-borehole system, both around 3-4km deep. Water would be circulated between the bottoms of the two wells, with it being heated by the hot rocks deep underground and returning to the surface at approximately 150 degrees Celsius. There it would drive a binary turbine to create electricity.

Roy Baria, technical director of EGS Energy, was deputy project director at the Rosemanowes Hot Rocks project in Cornwall, the UK's pioneering deep geothermal programme in the 1970s and 80s and worked as chief scientist of the European EGS geothermal programme in France until 2005.

He said: "We are lucky to have found in the Eden Project the perfect partner to take engineered geothermal systems to commercial reality from academic exercise, here in the UK where many of the skills that we bring to bear originated.

"With the geology in the vicinity of the Eden Project being ideal for creating our power plant and its reservoir, we would not only expect to be able to supply virtually all of the Eden Project's power and heat requirements but generate surplus power that could be fed into the grid to help meet the Government's carbon dioxide reduction and renewable generation targets."

Different locations within Eden are being looked at as possible sites for the plant. Subject to planning permission and funding, it is expected the project could be completed, the boreholes drilled and the power plant producing power by 2012. Guy Macpherson-Grant, managing director of EGS Energy, said the cost of the project would be in the region of £15-20 million made up of a combination of private investment and public funding.

One of EGS Energy's partners, BESTEC GmbH, now operates a commercial plant in Landau, Germany. Mr MacPherson-Grant said the time was right to launch a commercial geothermal plant after decades of research. Staff at the Eden Project are filled with optimism over the possibility of providing clean energy from the site near St Austell. Engineer Matt Hastings said: "It's massively exciting to be involved in what could be the resurgence of geothermal energy. "Landau is the first commercially viable system in Europe. I've been there and it's incredible to see how low-impact it is."

Hot Rocks discovers new geothermal well for clean energy
2 June 2009

Hot Rock Limited (HRL) has discovered a new geothermal well in its newly-granted GEP23 Permit area in the Otway Basin, Victoria, after reviewing recently released petroleum well results. Test results indicate that the new well, called the Penola Trough, is capable of containing hot water at temperatures greater than 140oC, which is suitable for the operation of a geothermal binary cycle power plant.

HRL is a developer of 'Hot Rocks' technology, which converts hot water from the earth's centre into energy. The new discovery provides the directors of HRL with the confidence that significant geothermal development potential exists in this area, according to a release from the company to the ASX. "HRL is currently carrying out extensive geological modelling and interpretation of data, including that from the largest MT (magneto-telluric) geothermal survey in Australia, for its first flagship geothermal project at Koroit in the Otway Basin, within permit GEP8.

"HRL will build on this current experience and expertise to carry out further detailed geological modelling and a comprehensive MT survey around the most prospective area in GEP 23 in 2009," the announcement said. "This information will be used to optimise the selection of an appropriate appraisal well site for the purpose of testing the temperature and permeability characteristics of the geothermal reservoir for power production."

Australia state approves wave energy pilot projects
Tue, 2 Jun 09

The government of South Australia State has approved two wave energy pilot projects planning to utilize the extensive wave energy generated by the Southern Ocean off Australia. Premier Mike Rann announced the May 19, 2009, approval of a pilot project by Wave Rider Energy Pty Ltd, planned for installation off Elliston on the Eyre Peninsula. The company plans an initial investment of A$5 million (US$3.9 million). "South Australia is said to have excellent wave energy potential due to the nature of its coastline and the power of waves generated in the Southern Ocean," Rann said.

A wave power assessment of the southern Australia coast last year found 170,000 MW of potential near-shore wave energy potential. (HydroWorld 10/3/08) The independent report, commissioned by wave energy developer Carnegie Corporation., estimated a "conservative" 10 percent of that amount - - 17,000 MW - - is economically extractable.

Rann said Wave Rider's first Wave Energy Converter will be deployed on the seabed lease. Wave Rider Managing Director Christian Gerlach said the device utilizes an innovative mechanical technology that provides high efficiency and durability. "Given the location of the site, 800 meters offshore, a depth of 30 meters, and a limestone seabed, there will be minimal impact on the environment but potential for future social and economic benefits," Gerlach said.

The government said Wave Rider hopes to make its technology commercially viable and has further growth and export plans for its operations in South Australia. Rann said the state gave approval to another wave energy pilot project, in April, to Carnegie Corporation, for a test site along the Limestone Coast near Port MacDonnell.

"Wave energy represents a largely untapped sustainable energy resource and is seen to be one of the most environmentally benign forms of energy generation currently available," the premier said. Carnegie Corporation recently expanded its CETO Wave Energy Research Facility in Fremantle, Western Australia State. Its first CETO II wave energy prototype achieved initial operation in February 2008 at the CETO test site off Fremantle.

CETO features a wave power converter that sits on the seabed. It transmits high-pressure seawater ashore through a small pipe. The water is used either to power a turbine-generator or for reverse-osmosis to produce fresh water.

Australia’s LNG May Help Lead Recovery, Ferguson Says
June 1

(Bloomberg) - - Australia's proposed liquefied natural gas developments may buffer the economy, Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson said, as the country faces its first recession since 1991.

"Developing Australia's gas resources for LNG, underpinned by long-term supply contracts into Japan, China, Korea and Taiwan, is one of our most prospective opportunities to buffer the economy in the near-term and kick start a new boom in the medium to long-term," Ferguson told the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association conference in Darwin.

A forecast gain in north Asian demand for cleaner-burning fuels has prompted plans for some 10 liquefied natural gas projects in Australia and Papua New Guinea. Australia's oil and gas producers propose projects valued in excess of A$200 billion ($160 billion), the association says.

Potential curbs on oil and gas investment growth identified in APPEA's State of the Industry 2009 report released today include regulatory reform and the design of Australia's proposed emissions trading system. The government remains committed to "getting this scheme right," Ferguson said.

Australia plans to offer permits for six new areas of offshore petroleum exploration, Ferguson said. They include three large deepwater zones on the northern Exmouth Plateau offshore Western Australia state.

Great Australian Bight
The Exmouth Plateau contains the Exxon-Mobil Corp.-operated Jansz discovery, which may hold about 20 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas, according to the company's estimates. The Jansz field is part of the A$50 billion Gorgon venture with Chevron Corp, and Royal Dutch Shell Plc.

The other three areas are in the central Great Australian Bight off South Australia state where no permits are currently held, Ferguson said. He didn't specify when the permits will be offered.

Australia's economy is in its first recession since 1991, according to central bank Governor Glenn Stevens, who forecast earlier this month that gross domestic product will fall 1 percent this year. BG Group Plc and ConocoPhillips are among companies with stakes in rival ventures aiming to turn gas extracted from coal seams in Queensland into LNG.

Wednesday 3 June 2009

Ranchers driving wind revolution
1 June 2009

Texan cattle rancher Mike Baca seems an unlikely evangelist for the American green revolution. When he voices a visceral dislike of the "Washington liberals" there seems to be little hint of the environmentalist beneath the cowboy hat and saucer-sized belt-buckle. But Mike is proof that renewable energy now unites the partisan debate on climate change.

Many Republicans sceptical of climate science support a major expansion of renewables to ease their nation's dependence on foreign oil. In Mike's case, the tantalising prospect of pocketing hundreds of thousands of dollars from wind turbines on his ranch proves an extra incentive. The sprawling ranch lies in the Texas panhandle on the high plains near Amarillo. Mike will not say how much land he owns but it stretches way beyond the horizon in all directions.

These high plains were considered low-grade land until engineers developed the fan-shaped wind pump to suck water from the shallow Ogallala aquifer and create cattle country. The aquifer is running dry but engineers have again harnessed the wind to bring income to the relatively small number of people who own these vast empty spaces. Mike is one of them. His nearest neighbours are miles away.

From the porch of his ranch-house - Tuscan with a Texan twist - at the floor of a verdant canyon he can sip bourbon and watch the giant blades turning a perpetual profit. "I like them. And I like the cheque that comes with them," he says. "I could do with a few more of them. We have to be concerned about what the world will be like for our grandchildren. If the turbines get noisy I can just switch on the fountain."

Texas utilities are planning a high voltage loop around the Panhandle to carry the power to the population centres of Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston. Donny Allred, the local county judge, is lobbying to lure the power lines to Amarillo. "This is the most perfect marriage of two industries - wind and cattle ranching," he says. "They were made for each other."

The power lines will carry about 50% wind energy and 50% from coal and gas to ensure security of supply. The great river of wind that flows from Texas to the Canadian border is one of the finest renewable energy reserves in the world and the American Wind Energy Association estimates that it could power America twice over. Ranch land is plentiful and the cows don't protest that their view is being spoiled - in fact they shelter in the shade of the turbine towers.

The profits are so easy that while energy investments have been plummeting worldwide, the high plains have been distracting the footloose energy giants from their planned offshore wind projects in the UK. The Obama administration is now working with American utilities nationally to create interconnectors to get the power where it is needed to the great cities on the coasts.

Some of the "wind states" have passed local laws stipulating the use of wind energy but some have been slow to capitalise. The Waxman-Markey Climate Bill going through Congress would mandate a minimum 20% renewables target for all states by 2020. The proposal has been watered down from 25% renewables in 2025. It is resisted by some politicians in south-eastern states where there is high dependence on Appalachian coal and less plentiful wind or solar energy.

The US energy secretary Steven Chu told BBC News that the 20% target was easily achievable. But environmentalists oppose it for that very reason. They say many states are on track to achieve more than 20% renewables by 2020. Jennifer Layke from the World Resources Institute in Washington told BBC News: "I think that we could do more with the emissions targets on the renewables front.

"I think this is a political compromise to manage issues associated with specific geographical concerns for the southern part of the United States and other areas." "As such, I think it creates the floor for action. That's a big improvement. It does not necessarily create the exponential scale-up of renewable technology that we need to combat climate change."

Either way, the renewable revolution has widespread support. At a rally of the Goldwing Road Riders in Amarillo we met bikers from both sides of the political divide. They were united over wind. Biker Wayne Jones said: "Oh lord! Climate change. I think that the wind is better than oil. It is a whole lot cleaner. Mother nature has given you the wind. It is free energy." Deborah Jones, another biker at the rally, told BBC News: "We need to be self-sufficient. As a nation, we need to rely on the United States."

ConocoPhillips sticks to coal-seam LNG timeframe
May 31, 2009

DARWIN, June 1 (Reuters) - U.S, oil major ConocoPhillips (COP.N) and Australian partner Origin Energy (ORG.AX) are sticking with their 2014 production start-up date for a $24.5 billion gas-export project in Australia, despite uncertainty over future demand, a ConocoPhillips executive said on Monday.

Ryan Lance, ConocoPhillips head of exploration and production for Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East, downplayed speculation the four-train facility in Queensland state, each to produce 3.5 million tonnes a year, would be vulnerable to delays because of weak energy prices and rising costs. The project will rely on coal seam gas.

Development still hinges on a final investment decision not due until sometime in 2010, Lance told reporters after addressing the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) industry conference in Darwin. "Our plans are to move forward and reach FID (final investment decision) by 2010 and have first LNG in 2014," he said.

Earlier on Monday, Australia opened six new offshore oil and gas fields for exploration, half where no permits have previously been issued in hopes of boosting its share of global supply. "While we currently have less than 10 percent of the global market, Australia is in a very strategic place to invest in LNG, particularly for international oil companies and independent LNG companies," Australian Resources Minister Martin Ferguson said.

Worldwide, oil companies are expected to slash capital expenditure by about a fifth, or by $100 billion, this year as demand wanes and financing proves more difficult, International Energy Agency Deputy Director Richard Jones said. Lance said Australia held the potential to follow Qatar as the world's No. 2 provider of LNG in about a decade, given existing projects and those on the drawing board.

But analysts have warned that Australia's half-dozen coal seam LNG export ventures face near-certain delays or may even be scrapped as weakening energy prices revise construction plans and force companies into partnerships. An APPEA report released on Monday said of 85 existing and proposed LNG projects worldwide, 12 of the 20 most expensive were in Australia.

There are four major, and three small, projects in Queensland state alone that plan to export coal seam gas as LNG. Besides the ConocoPhillips-Origin Energy partnership, Britain's BG Group Plc plans a two-train plant producing 7.4 million tonnes a year, and Petronas [PETR.UL] and Santos Ltd (STO.AX) jointly propose a 3.5 million tonnes a year project.

Royal Dutch Shell also intends to build a plant, though it is the least advanced of the projects and lacks gas reserves.

Solar Power Fraudster Jailed
1 June, 2009

A US man who would take down payments on installing wind and solar energy systems and then not perform the work has been sentenced to nearly two years in prison and ordered to repay more than USD $100,000. While this was a US case, fraudulent practices and misleading advertising in relation to solar energy systems is becoming particularly rampant in Australia given the federal government's $8,000 solar rebate ending on June 30..

The new Australian Solar Credits scheme, due to follow immediately after the end of this rebate, will be available to far more Australians than the current rebate, but it will not offer the same level of subsidisation as the Solar Homes and Communities Plan on lower end system, which are the most popular choice for many Australian families seeking to make the switch to home solar energy.

The rush is on to secure a heavily subsidised system and some companies are making questionable offers in order to scoop up consumer dollars in the time that remains. The surge in interest in solar energy has also seen many operations pop up in recent times that have no history in the industry and little knowledge of renewable energy technology and associated administrative processes.

Australian solar energy company Energy Matters has recently updated their Consumer Guide to Solar Power to reflect the more recent scams and questionable practices that have emerged.

The guide seeks not only to help consumers recognise questionable sales and advertising tactics; but by raising awareness of these practices, to help to create a more level playing field in an industry that generally consists of companies with a genuine interest in providing quality products and a genuine passion for renewable energy.

Solar Power Plant Linked to Abu Dhabi Electricity Grid
1 June 2009

ABU DHABI - The nation's first solar energy generation plant was integrated into the Abu Dhabi's electricity grid on Sunday. The Dh185 million clean energy plant, with an installed power generation capacity of 10 MW is also one of the most cost-efficient photovoltaic (PV) installations in the world in terms of its projected power output.

The clean energy generated by the plant is equal to an annual carbon savings of 15,000 metric tons, which is equivalent of taking 3,300 cars off Abu Dhabi's roads each year. The solar energy plant will power the temporary Masdar site administration facilities, the ongoing construction activities of the zero carbon city being built in the capital, besides meeting the energy needs of The Masdar Institute of Science Technology, a graduate-level scientific institution, which opens in late 2009.

Shaikh Diab bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority or ADWEA inaugurated Abu Dhabi Future Energy or Masdar's solar energy plant, marking its integration into the Abu Dhabi grid.

Philippines implements renewable energy incentives including hydro
Mon, 1 Jun 09

Philippines Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes signed rules May 25, 2009, implementing legislation to encourage investments in renewable energy including hydropower and ocean energy.

The rules implement the Renewable Energy Act enacted in December, providing tax incentives to investors in hydropower and ocean, solar, geothermal, and biomass energy. Incentives include a seven-year income tax holiday, duty-free importation of equipment, and a zero percent value-added tax rate for power sales.

Although a third of the Philippines' energy mix is renewable energy, including hydro and geothermal energy, the government plans to increase that to 40 percent over 10 years.

Reyes told a news briefing the government hopes to attract up to US$10 billion in renewable energy investments over the next decade. Local news reports quoted him saying the total renewable potential of the entire country is 200,000 MW, compared to existing generating capacity of 15,000 MW. "Our objective is to double the power being generated from renewable energy sources, from 4,500 MW to 9,000 MW in 10 years," he said.

State-run Philippines News Agency said May 24 the National Economic and Development Authority Cabinet Committee approved a 6.2 billion peso (US$131 million) Renewable Energy and Climate Change (REACH) loan facility of the Land Bank of the Philippines.

The funding is to provide medium- and long-term credit to sub-borrowers, enabling them to pursue projects involving climate change mitigation and renewable energy including small hydropower and solar, biomass, geothermal, and wind energy. The European Investment bank is to finance 3.1 billion pesos (US$65 million) while the Land Bank provides the remainder through financing or sub-borrowers equity.

Obama seeks funding cuts for wave, tidal energy research
Sun, May. 31

The Obama administration has proposed a 25 percent cut in the research and development budget for one of the most promising renewable energy sources in the Northwest - wave power and tidal power. At the same time the White House sought an 82 percent increase in solar energy research funding, a 36 percent increase in wind energy funding and a 14 percent increase in geothermal funding, it sought to cut wave power and tidal power research funding from $40 million to $30 million.

The decision to cut funding for tidal power and wave power came only weeks after the Interior Department suggested that wave power could emerge as the leading offshore energy source in the Northwest and at a time when efforts to develop tidal power in Puget Sound are attracting national and international attention.

By some estimates, wave power and tidal power could eventually meet 10 percent of the nation's electricity demand, about the same as hydropower currently delivers. Some experts have estimated that if only 0.2 percent of energy in ocean waves could be harnessed, the power produced would be enough to supply the entire world.

In addition to Puget Sound and the Northwest coast, tidal power and wave power generators have been installed, planned or talked about in New York's East River, in Maine, Alaska, Hawaii and off Atlantic City, N.J. However, they would generate only small amounts of power. The Europeans are leaders when it comes to tidal power and wave power, with projects considered, planned or installed in Spain, Portugal, Scotland, Ireland and Norway. There have also been discussions about projects in South Korea, the Philippines, India and Canada's Maritime provinces.

The proposed cut, parts of the president's budget submitted to Congress, has disappointed Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. "Wave power and tidal power holds great promise in helping to meet America's long-term energy needs," Murray said, adding that Washington state is a leader in its development. "It's time for the Department of Energy to focus on this potential. But playing budget games won't get the work done."

In addition to cutting funds in its budget proposal, Murray's staff said that while $16.8 billion in the recently passed stimulus bill is reserved for renewable energy and energy efficiency, none of it is earmarked for wave power and tidal power. Energy Department spokesman Tom Welch, however, said the Obama administration is asking for 10 times more for tidal power and wave power than the Bush administration did.

"The trend line is up," Welch said. "The department is collaborating with industry, regulators and other stakeholders to develop water resources, including conventional hydro." Murray sees it differently. Congress appropriated $40 million for the current year, so the Obama administration proposal actually would cut funding by a fourth. Utility officials involved in developing tidal power energy sources said the administration's approach was shortsighted.

"We need all the tools in the tool belt," said Steve Klein, general manager of the Snohomish County, Wash., Public Utility District. "It's dangerous to anoint certain sources and ignore others."

The Snohomish PUD could have a pilot plant using three tidal power generators installed on a seabed in Puget Sound in 2011. The tidal power generators, built by an Irish company, are 50 feet tall and can spin either way depending on the direction of the tides. The units will be submerged, with 80 feet of clearance from their tops to the water's surface. They'll be placed outside of shipping channels and ferry routes.

The pilot plant is expected to produce one MW of electricity, or enough to power about 700 homes. If the pilot plant proves successful, the utility would consider installing a project that powered 10,000 homes.

Tuesday 2 June 2009

A powerful plan to catch the sunshine

Saturday 30/5/2009 Page: 14

The State Government is getting serious about solar energy, pledging $100 million towards the development of a solar energy plant, writes Lain Gillespie.

The State Government has called for expressions of interest in developing a huge solar energy station in Victoria, and has pledged a non-refundable $100 million towards the project.

The successful developer will have to build a solar energy station capable of generating 330GWh of electricity a year enough to power 50,000 homes. Alternatively, the plant would be capable of powering all Victorian Government departments and agencies, including public schools, police stations, VicRoads and even the Melbourne Zoo.

Expressions of interest from qualified tenderers close on September 25, and the government aims to have the plant up and running by 2015. Tender documents say that until now, solar electricity generation technologies in Australia have almost exclusively been flatplate photovoltaic arrays, which have not had sufficient capacity to influence the energy supply mix. "Such smaller arrays have also not been cost-effective against other renewable energy technologies or have lead to a significant domestic manufacturing presence," the documents say.

To be eligible for consideration, the solar generation project must gain financial support from both the Australian Government and private sectors equal to, or greater than, the amount of financial support provided by Victoria. The Victorian Government does not intend to recover funds extended to the project (except in limited circumstances), acquire equity in the electricity generator or acquire ownership of any intellectual property associated with it.

The tender documents warn that the Federal Government's proposed carbon pollution reduction scheme "will largely favour entry to market of gas-fired assets, rather than renewable energy projects". "While this outcome is desirable for carbon mitigation purposes in the short term, the view of the Australian and Victorian Governments is that long-term emissions reductions will rely to a large extent on renewable energy," the documents say.

In announcing the project earlier this year, Premier John Brumby said large-scale solar was the most economical form of solar energy generation and was expected to drive investment and create jobs in regional Victoria. "We have fast-tracked this project so that companies can tap into the Federal Government's funding available under the Renewable Energy Demonstration Program," Mr Brumby said. "solar energy generation is expensive because the solar industry is still in its infancy.

The way to drive down the cost is to speed up development of solar plants, which is why the Victorian Government will provide funding for a new solar energy station." The government has also provided a $6 million grant for an organic solar research and development project, and $50 million for a 154MW large-scale solar plant near Mildura. "Our Victorian Renewable Energy Target has already attracted $2 billion in renewable energy investment and will create more than 2000 jobs, and we have invested $5 million to install solar energy infrastructure in 500 schools and community buildings," Mr Brumby said.

Additional information on the large-scale solar project can be found at

Energy from pig slurry helps fight climate change

STERKSEL, Netherlands (AP) ― The 2,700 pigs on the farm that John Horrevorts manages yield more than ham and bacon. A biogas plant makes enough electricity from their waste to run the farm and feeds extra wattage into the Dutch national grid. He even gets bonus payments for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

As the world struggles to reduce pollution causing climate change, attention has focused on the burning of fossil fuels in factories, power stations, and vehicles. But UN scientists says farming and forestry account for more than 30 percent of the greenhouse gases that are gradually heating the earth. Much of that pollution comes from cattle, sheep and pigs that belch or excrete methane, a heat-trapping gas more than 20 times as potent as carbon dioxide, the most common global warming gas.

Negotiators from 190 countries have been working to reach a new climate change agreement in December on ways to reduce emissions and help countries adapt to changes in climate. They will reconvene June 1 in Bonn, Germany, for another two-week session.

Yet it is uncertain whether cutting agricultural emissions will be part of the agreement expected to emerge at the final meetings in Copenhagen, Denmark. The subject is complex, emissions are difficult to measure, and the whole question is politically sensitive, touching on the distrust between the world's rich and poor countries.

Scientists say it is too important to be left out. "It would be absolutely nuts to ignore agriculture and forestry in any future climate deal," said Pete Smith, professor of soils and global change at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. UN studies say agriculture is the main source of income for one of every three working people. It also is a growing source of pollution, as the global population increases and living standards rise in developing countries where more people are eating meat.

The latest research by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization says animal husbandry accounts for 18 percent of all greenhouse gases, when taking into account the grassland and forests that are cleared for raising livestock.

When the FAO report came out in 2006, "people in the livestock sector were shocked because they thought they did a good job," says Akke van der Zijpp, a professor of animal husbandry at Wageningen University, a premier Dutch technical facility. Now they "are becoming slowly aware that this problem has to be solved." One way to deal with it is to reduce the methane animals produce by changing their diet or through breeding. Another is to make use of it and burn it.

Horrevorts says Wageningen University's Praktijkcentrum, or Sterksel Research Center, creates 5,000 MWs a year, enough to power 1,500 homes. The farm uses the electricity it needs and feeds the rest into the national grid, for which the government pays up to euro177 ($238) per MW as a green energy subsidy.

Pigs can be remarkably house-broken animals. Here, they drop their waste through slats on the floor in the middle of the barn while spending most of their time in open stalls to the side. The slurry is channeled into three 4,000 cubic meter (141,250 cubic feet) tanks, then mixed into a thick goo with other organic waste like low-quality grain and carrot juice to increase the methane potential. Bacteria break down the material in a digester tank and the gas is siphoned off into a generator to produce electricity.

Horrevorts says a group including his operation and four other commercial farms avoids methane emissions equivalent to 40,000 tons of carbon a year. Dozens of private or nonprofit companies known as offset providers will "buy" those tons as a way of supporting renewable energy or other projects that reduce carbon emissions, then resell the credits to individuals or companies who want to shrink their carbon footprint.

Last year, Horrevorts said, a British offset provider paid euro5 ($6.70) per ton for people wanting to neutralize plane travel or rock concert tickets. This year, the farm was negotiating with a Dutch company seeking to become carbon neutral to promote a green image. Though operating expenses for the biogas plant are considerable, the combination of electricity savings, power production and carbon credits makes it profitable, Horrevorts says.

Horrevorts, who is a biological researcher rather than a professional farmer, says that with financial incentives through electricity subsidies, it could become standard practice for ordinary farmers. About 50 commercial biogas plants operate on farms in the Netherlands, and the practice is spreading across industrial livestock farms around the world. "I think in the future every pig farm will have a biogas plant," he says.

But at euro1 million ($1.3 million) for a big plant like Sterksel's, it's a rich man's answer to climate change. About 70 percent of the world's agriculture is on small land holdings in the developing world, which complicates climate politics, says Antonio Hill of the nonprofit group Oxfam International. "It sounds like a big pot," Hill said, but dealing with farming is tougher than with industries. "You're talking about tens of thousands of sources of industrial emissions in rich countries. That's a lot more manageable than hundreds of millions of agricultural operations."

Measuring and verifying carbon reductions from soil conservation, grassland management and livestock is complicated, and those reductions may not be permanent. Trees planted to soak up carbon from the air, for example, can always be cut down and burned. In the past year, much effort has gone into quantifying emissions from deforestation in the tropics and ways to compensate countries like Brazil or Indonesia for protecting their rainforests. But no comparable effort has gone into accounting for the vast farming sector.

Another obstacle to an agreement in the UN talks is the suspicion that rich countries will meet a large part of their emissions reductions by buying credits on the international carbon market rather than constraining their own industries. In other words, they would buy credits from farmers to reduce their carbon footprint, in the same way the offset company bought credits from the Sterksel pig farm. "If the idea is that rich countries will do most of their reductions through offsets, a lot of developing countries have a big problem with that," says Hill, speaking from his home base in Bolivia.

Hill says he expected nothing more in the Copenhagen agreement than "place holders," or general statements that can be filled in later with details. But Smith, the scientist from Aberdeen who co-wrote the agriculture section in the 2007 report by the UNs Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, says including agriculture in the Copenhagen agreement would provide a source of capital from rich countries to poor ones. "It would be a desperate shame if it were blocked for political reasons," he says.

Power tariff take-up slow - ActewAGL blamed for not informing customers

Sunday Canberra Times
Sunday 31/5/2009 Page:8

THREE months after the introduction of the ACT's electricity feed-in tariff scheme, the most generous in the country, more than a third of Canberrans generating solar energy have yet to apply to ActewAGL to reap the benefits. On March 1 there were 579 Canberrans with solar, or photovoltaic, panels fitted to their houses, which had risen to 688 by Wednesday.

There are still 257 yet to apply for the feed-in tariff. At least one Canberran says the low take-up rate is because ActewAGL neglected to notify eligible customers in writing of the need to enter a new contract, before the first billing period under the scheme. The first Michael Glew knew about the need to enter into a new contract with ActewAGL was when information about the new feed-in tariff arrived with his latest electricity bill, which applied the higher, pre-March rate.

ActewAGL has sent feed-in tariff information and contracts to eligible customers with their bills since May 5. Mr Glew, who has been long-term unemployed and is in the process of establishing his own business, says this has cost him $345. "It's hard for my family," he said. Mr Glew already had a 20-year contract with ActewAGL on March 1, which he entered in October 2008 when he fitted solar, or photovoltaic, panels to his house.

Under the contract his electricity bill was, and still is, offset by about 7c per kW hour. Under the Electricity feed-in tariff Scheme, introduced by Energy Minister Simon Corbell on March 1, Mr Glew stands to be paid 50.05c per kW hour by ActewAGL - but only if he applies for a new contract. And the first billing period is off-limits for refunds.

"ActewAGL is playing an interesting game where they're interpreting the Act in a way that benefits them. They require people to apply to get the feed-in tariff, even if they're contracted to feed in power to the network already. I think it's ridiculous," Mr Glew said. ActewAGL head of retail Ivan Slayich said information about the scheme was provided to the public through the media. "Since the scheme was implemented, ActewAGL has also provided information on its website to complement the ACT Government's communication efforts," Mr Slavich said.

"Where required, ActewAGL has promptly provided customers with appropriated documentation to enable them to apply for the scheme." Mr Slavich said ActewAGL had no obligation on March 1 to notify customers eligible for the feed-in tariff of the arrangements. Refunds backdated to March 1 would be not be offered because the terms of the ACT feed-in tariff contract "clearly set out the requirements for eligibility and the commencement date for the premium rates".

Energy Minister Simon Corbell said there had been extensive community information campaigns conducted when the feed-in tariff was introduced. "It is my understanding that ActewAGL has since engaged in the process of sending letters to preexisting customers on solar contracts to inform them of their ability to sign up to the new tariff scheme," he said.

Burn, bury and bargain with it: biochar ticks the green boxes

Sydney Morning Herald
Saturday 30/5/2009 Page: 6

What unites Malcolm Turnbull, Tim Flannery and James Lovelock? Enthusiasm for biochar: one of the most intriguing solutions to global warming and a possible boon for investors. biochar, the charcoal-like residue when biomass (such as agricultural or council waste) undergoes Pyrolysis (combustion at 400-550 degrees, without oxygen), has the potential to pull large amounts of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

There is no commercial biochar production in Australia yet but there is palpable excitement; about 200 people attended a biochar conference on the Gold Coast last week. Others were turned away. According to Philip Sutton and David Spratt's Climate Code Red, published last year, when Joe Herbertson of sustainability consultancy Crucible Carbon first read about biochar technology "the hairs went up on the back of my neck. This is the best news on climate change I've ever heard."

Crucible Carbon is the unlisted, private company Malcolm Turnbull championed this year when launching his Green Carbon Initiative, saying biochar was a "win-win" for jobs, the environment and agriculture given its potential to absorb 100 million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year, or 20% of the country's total.

Heady stuff. Crucible Carbon is chaired and co-owned by Herbertson, a former head of BHP Billiton's corporate research labs in Newcastle. Crucible is developing its own Pyrolysis unit and is focusing on the potential to create renewable, baseload energy for regional towns - as well as saleable renewable energy certificates- from the biogas which is a byproduct of the process.

The company has received more than $300,000 of grant funding since it was founded in 2007 and is exploring opportunities to raise up to $12 million in early-stage capital - a combination of debt and equity is most likely- from wealthy individuals and trade partners. If successful, the money raised will fund development of a commercial- scale Pyrolysis unit, to generate about three MWs of electricity from 24,000 drytonnes of biomass, as well as 8000 tonnes of biochar - and a three-year payback for investors.

Crucible is also technology partner in the Rainbow Bee Eater project (named after the bird) in Western Australia's wheat belt, backed by a prominent farmer, Ian Stanley, and the WA Agriculture Department. The project aims to convert agricultural residues and woody crops into biochar and renewable energy. About $1.5 million has be en invested in the project over the past 18 months, by among others, listed miner Alumina Ltd, which is interested in offsetting its own emissions using biochar.

Alumina believes 20 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year could be stored using biochar by 2020. In January, its chief executive, John Bevan, said he was "not aware of any other potential large scale mitigation option that could continence capturing and storing carbon in this way within several years". Stanley says field trials applying biochar to wheat crops are already demonstrating the agricultural benefits.

It is just one example. Lukas van Zwieten, of the NSW Department of Primary Industries and Energy, helped organise last week's biochar conference and presented a paper showing the greatest potential market for biochar was as a soil amendment, valued at between $100 and $1000 a tonne.

That's a big range, which just shows it is early days. The char can be used to improve the efficiency of fertilisers and also can be a physical amendment to the soil. Its value depends heavily on the type of application - the type of biomass used as feedstock, the soil it is applied to, the crop being grown etc.

The department extrapolated from a one tenth scale trial to conclude that a Pyrolysis unit processing four dry tonnes an hour of waste from a chicken facility (mainly manure and sawdust) could yield 2.3 MWs an hour of electricity, saleable to the grid for $750,000 a year (assuming a price of $40/MWh). renewable energy certificates could be sold for another $1 million (assuming a price of $55 per MWh).

The unit would also produce 12,000 tonnes of biochar a year worth - this is the big part - up to $6.4 million based on the extra sweet corn and fava beans yielded after application of biochar in the department's trial. The productivity increase was substantial, almost double, in some cases. The trial used a Pyrolysis unit made by BEST Energies, the most established Australian company in the field.

BEST Energies is also raising money to build an $8 million-$10 million commercial-scale plant with backers including Transfield Services. The plant will turn green waste from Sydney councils into electricity and biochar.

BEST Energies director Adriana Downie told GBIZ the most exciting potential for biochar was to be "carbon negative" but the emissions trading schemes proposed in Australia were skewing the application of the technology towards renewable energy generation, because there was no recognition of the carbon sequestered using biochar. In Canberra this week, Downie pushed for recognition of carbon offsets using biochar under the draft carbon pollution reduction scheme, and in the position Australia's climate negotiators will take to next week's pre-Copenhagen meeting in Bonn.

The International Biochar Initiative is lobbying for the same thing globally. In an open letter to the initiative last year, Tim Flannery, the environmental campaigner and former Australian of the year, said biochar "may represent the single most important initiative for humanity's environmental future".

In a recent New Scientist interview, the British scientist and conservationist James Lovelock - after summarily dismissing the efficacy of carbon trading initiatives, renewable energy and carbon sequestration - was effusive: "There is one way we could save ourselves and that is through the massive burial of charcoal." "The biosphere pumped out 550 gigatons of carbon yearly; we put in only 30 gigatons. 99% of the carbon that is fixed by plants is released back into the atmosphere within a year or so."

"What we can do is get farmers to burn their crop waste at very low oxygen levels to turn it into charcoal, which the father then ploughs into the field. A little carbon dioxide is released but the bulk of it gets converted to carbon." "This is the one thing we can do that will make a difference, but I bet they won't do it." But maybe we will.

Climate Envoy Stern Says China Must Be ‘in the Game’
May 29

China is at the forefront of major developing nations that must help reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in a new treaty to stem global warming, U.S, climate envoy Todd Stern said. The Asian nation, the world's biggest producer of heat- trapping gases, will need to make commitments in the worldwide agreement planned under United Nations leadership this year, the top U.S, treaty official said, without naming specific actions.

The U.S, and China together produce more than 40 percent of global emissions of heat-trapping gases. An effective agreement to slow climate change must reconcile their negotiating positions, analysts have said. "I don't think that there's any question that China and the other major economies have to be in the game," Stern said today on a conference call with reporters. "They're doing a lot already, but they're going to need to do more actions and commit to them and be able to quantify them."

The comments followed talks between officials from both nations in Beijing this week and remarks on May 26 by U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu that the U.S, may agree to emission- reduction targets in a new treaty even if China didn't. The UN set a December deadline for the accord to be signed in Copenhagen. Stern's top negotiator, Jonathan Pershing, will lead the U.S, delegation at a two-week round of talks that begin in Bonn on June 1.

‘Some Just Watch’
The new agreement should require that certain actions to stem climate change should be undertaken by "all countries, developed and developing," Pershing said on the same call. "It shouldn't just say some countries do something and some countries watch." Climate legislation that won approval eight days ago in a House of Representatives committee would put the world's biggest economy on a similar emission-reduction track as the 27-nation European Union, Stern said.

The U.S, bill calls for industry to make a reduction that's in the mid-range between the EU's two proposals, he said. The EU, using 1990 as a base year, has vowed to cut gas emissions in 2020 by 20 percent, or as much as 30 percent if other industrialized nations follow suit. Stern said using instead a base year of 2005 or 2004, the EU proposals work out to cuts of about 14 percent or 24 percent, respectively, compared with the 17 percent decline called for in the U.S, bill from 2005 levels.

EU Comparison
That U.S, target would be a 4 percent reduction from Europe's base year of 1990, Stern said. The U.S, is pushing forward on a "suite of policies" to bring down emissions, including improved vehicle fuel efficiency standards, $150 billion of investment in renewable energy over 10 years.

In Bonn, delegates will begin to debate a draft treaty for the first time since a guideline for two years of negotiations was agreed in Bali in December 2007. The 53-page text, posted May 20 on the Web site of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change will be the main focus of the Bonn talks, Pershing said.

"Countries will begin to add issues which they think are critical, new areas they think were not particularly well- covered and begin to express concerns on issues they think are not appropriate," the negotiator told reporters.