Wednesday 17 June 2009

28,000 Australians waiting for a new clean job

Clean Energy Council
16 June 2009

NATIONAL: Clean energy and energy efficiency industries will create more than 28,000* new jobs by 2020, according to groundbreaking economic modelling released today by the Clean Energy Council (CEC). CEC Chief Executive, Matthew Warren, said the report demonstrates that renewable energy jobs are the key to Australia's defence against ongoing global recession and the front line response to climate change.

"We have a burgeoning renewable energy industry in Australia that is ready to become an economic powerhouse when the parliament passes critical Renewable Energy Target legislation," he said. "We now need politicians from all sides in Canberra to set aside cheap political point scoring and pass the RET bill now."

Mr Warren said that immediate deployment of renewable energy projects has the clear support of most stakeholders and the community. "Any political tricky manoeuvre to hold the legislation up now will simply end up being a remarkable own goal," he said. The report concludes that at least 50 percent of Australia's energy will be derived from renewable sources by 2050 and this will require the creation of a new renewable energy workforce.

"This is a tremendous opportunity for employers, investors, education providers and jobseekers to reap the benefits of a green jobs revolution," Mr Warren added. The CEC is working with all levels of government, industry and educational institutions to make sure we get the RET legislation right and pave the way for the creation of this exciting new industry.

The report is now available for download at

*jobs – modelling does not account for jobs created under the $1.6bn Solar Flagships program nor does it include jobs created under the carbon pollution reduction scheme (CPRS).

PM's carbon scheme `will not work'

Sunday Telegraph
Sunday 14/6/2009 Page: 2

RALLYING activists blockaded the Prime Minister's Sydney office yesterday protesting against the Rudd government's response to climate change. Streets were blocked off as protesters marched from the harbour to Kevin Rudd's city office, where they staged a short sit-in protest against the carbon emissions scheme. Families, young children and the elderly gathered in every state capital and Canberra dressed in red as part of the "climate emergency" message.

The rallies attracted about 6000 people nationally, and included environmental groups such as Greenpeace and the Wilderness Society, which want an emissions scheme ditched in favour of an alternative proposal - dubbed "Plan B" - which includes the phasing out of coal-fired power stations.

The protest movement also wants a switch to 100% renewable energy by 2020. Government legislation setting up the scheme is due to go before the Senate later this month during the next sitting, but the Coalition and the Greens have indicated they will block the bill.

Australian Greens climate change spokeswoman Christine Milne, who addressed 1200 activists in rain-soaked Hobart, said her party would block the Government's carbon emissions trading scheme (CPRS) unless it committed to 40% cuts by 2020. "What we need is a can-do mentality rather than listening to the people who say we can't do it," Senator Milne said. The Australian Greens will oppose the CPRS legislation because the target is not ambitious enough."

Meanwhile, NSW Greens upper house MP Lee Rhiannon told Sydney's 2000-strong crowd the Government's scheme would not cut reliance on fossil fuels. The world is on red alert. Urgent action is needed to rein in runaway climate change now," Ms Rhiannon said. The Prime Minister needs to recognise baby steps is not what is needed - we need the giant leap to a zero emissions future. We know that achieving that is not going to come with the carbon pollution reduction scheme - that's a scam."

As protesters chanted, Climate Change Minister Penny Wong went on radio to defend the Government's position. "Like the people who are at these rallies, this Government does want to take action on climate change," Senator Wong told ABC Radio. "The best way to take action on climate change is for senators to pass these laws that will for the first time reduce Australia's carbon pollution."

A leaked UN analysis, dated June 6, says that on conservative estimates, rich countries need to embrace 25 to 40% cuts in emissions by 2020, below 1990 levels, to give the world a chance of avoiding a 2C temperature rise. Labor is promising carbon cuts of 25% by 2020 if an ambitious climate change agreement is reached at the UN climate change talks at Copenhagen in December.

Australian National University earth sciences visiting fellow Andrew Glikson told the rally in Canberra that the Government's flagged emissions targets were inadequate. "Government listens to economists, they listen to corporations, they listen to lawyers. There are no scientists at that level." Dr Glikson said.

Solar plans go cloudy - Confusion over end of rebate

Sunday Tasmanian
Sunday 14/6/2009 Page: 23

THE $8000 solar panel rebate ended last week, three weeks earlier than expected, leaving thousands of consumers worried they may have to cancel their orders for solar panels. June Jung, from Corndale near Lismore, ordered a two panel system at a cost of $12,000, but she got her paperwork in a day late. "If we don't get the rebate, we won't be able to afford it," she said.

According to the Federal Government, 80,000 households have taken up solar energy in the past 18 months, and there are 60,000 still in the pipeline who will get the rebate. Households in all states have also been told to brace for increasing energy costs, so many are wondering if solar is still worth the investment without the rebate.

Peter Milaras, of Balmoral in Brisbane, was keen to go solar but cancelled his quote after the rebate was axed. He also shot off a letter to his local member, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. "Electricity is going up 15% this year and I thought it would offset my power bill and the $8000 rebate made it affordable." he said.

With the rebate, Mr Milaras would have only been $3000 out of pocket for the 1kW system he had in mind. "I'm away a fair bit for work too, so I thought feeding back into the grid would also offset my bill," he said. feed-in tariffs vary from 40c-50c/kW in each state. In Queensland, it is 44c/kW.

According to an analysis conducted by Choice, the average household uses 18kW hours of electricity per day and the most popular domestic solar panel is a 1kW system that produces nearly 4kW hours per day, or 20% of household consumption. A 1kW solar panel costs between $12,000 and $15,000. Two panels can cost up to $20,000.

"Solar is still the most expensive form of renewable energy and it takes 15 to 20 years for a system to pay for itself, so it's a big investment," said Elise Davidson from Choice. Mr Milaras doesn't think it's worth it without the rebate, but may still get a quote "down the track". Mr Rudd said the rebate would be replaced by a system of solar credits that would in effect be a subsidy of about 50% of the cost price at the point of purchase.

Confusion reigns on the subject of solar credits because it has yet to pass through legislation, but here are the examples given on the Climate Change website:
  • A solar system in Sydney, Perth. Adelaide, Brisbane or Canberra will receive $5150 for a 1kW system and $7750 for a 1.5kW system. Melbourne and Hobart receive fewer renewable energy certificates because they have less sunshine, so less energy is produced.
  • A 1kW system installed this year will receive $4400 and a 1.5kW system $6650.
Bernie Dumbrowski, from the Solar Shop, urged the Government to hurry up and make the new system clear. "Consumers are very confused and so are we. but we would also ask consumers to be a little patient for a few weeks until this is all sorted out." he said.

Power upgrade needed

Independent Weekly
Friday 12/6/2009 Page: 26

A multi-billion-dollar upgrade of transmission networks would be required for South Australia to deliver on new renewable energy targets, the Clean Energy Council said. The council has welcomed the State Government's plan to lift the energy drawn from renewable sources to 33% by 2020.

But chief executive Matthew Warren said the expansion of clean energy was already constrained by transmission capacity to the big energy markets in the eastern states. "South Australia's renewables future is promising and exciting," Mr Warren said. "South Australia currently hosts more than 50% of Australia's total wind generation capacity and has benefitted from its ability to harness roaring 40s winds.

"The state has significant potential to develop a range of other renewable energy technologies by utilising its world-class resources of sunshine, geothermal heat, waves and wind." But Mr Warren said growth depended on a major upgrade of the electricity infrastructure between South Australia and the eastern states.

"These constraints threaten to hold back expansion of larger scale clean energy technologies which, in turn, have the potential to lower electricity prices in South Australia and deliver much needed employment growth in key regional areas," he said. "The key challenge remains how this multibillion dollar investment in upgrading Australia's energy infrastructure will be funded."

Planning Australia's clean and renewable energy future

Saturday 13/6/2009 Page: 2

In the absence of government commitment, private groups are taking the initiative, writes Paddy Manning.
THE Federal Government employs about 237,000 public servants. Not one of them is planning for Australia to make a complete transition to renewable energy, or even seriously envisaging such a scenario. A spokesman for the PM confirmed this week a clean energy future is not on our agenda, even as an option not for 2020, not for 2050, not at all - even though thousands of people will march in Australia today demanding just that.

As a result, most of its are completely in the dark as to whether there is potentially enough renewable energy to go around, and at what cost. We are held hostage to the argument that coal or nuclear are the only credible options for "baseload power". It would be at least prudent to work up a plausible transition-to-clean-energy scenario. Privately funded groups in Australia, worried and fed up waiting for credible action from the Government, can see the need.

Zero Carbon Australia (ZCA) 2020 is one such document, being drafted by a group of largely Melbourne-based volunteers called, with funding from the Climate Emergency Network. An initial exercise estimated the state of Victoria - reliant on dirty brown coal - could halve its emissions within three years at a cost of $29 billion. Then, about six months ago, the group won seed funding of $25,000 to prepare a national plan, from a private donor in NSW.

About 50 scientists and engineers, activists and writers are collaborating on the plan. The aim is to show how Australia s energy could be provided entirely from renewable sources by 2020. The guiding principles behind ZCA 2020 include that all technological solutions must be proven, reliable and commercially available, and costed at today's prices. Energy security trust be enhanced. The transition trust not cause other environmental degradation (through land clearing for biofuel crops, for example).

Separate "zero carbon" plans will cover stationary (that is, non-transport-related) energy, transport, land use, buildings, industrial processes and replacing coal export revenue. A rough draft of the stationary energy plan - eliminating roughly half the country's emissions - will be available next week.

Over the next decade, the draft plan envisages: using energy efficiency to keep demand at current levels; electrifying transport; creating a smart grid; switching coal-fired power stations to gas in the transition; obtaining half of our electricity supply from 50 solar thermal power stations, and another third from more than 11,000 wind turbines. The costs are still being modelled, but a ballpark estimate is $250 billion over 10 years.

The group is working towards a public launch of the finished stationary energy, buildings and transport plans in mid-August. Campaign director and former computer engineer Matthew Wright has a weekly radio show on climate science and solutions on Melbourne's 3CR community radio station. "We've got tens of thousands of climate action group members all over the country," lie says. "All kinds of people. There's the whole spectrum there."

Those concerned about climate change are constantly told, as Malcolm Turnbull told the ABC in 2007: "You cannot run a modern economy on windfarms and solar panels. It's a pity that you can't, but you can't." Wright disagrees: "That's absolute rubbish." ZCA 2020 will give people confidence they can lobby for a clean energy supply with confidence.

Similar planning exercises are going on internationally. The Desertec Foundation is an initiative backed by the Club of Rome that aims to provide clean power from the world's deserts. In Europe that means building massive solar thermal power stations in the Sahara, with power sent thousands of kilometres north through high-voltage direct-current (HVDC) cables.

Speaking of deserts, Australia has, according to Stewart Taggart of Desertec's local arm, an unbelievable opportunity to become a clean energy superpower by 2050, and the plan to do that has been drawn up and is available online.

Taggart, a former financial journalist and economist, is a director of consultancy Acquasol, which is working on the world's first large-scale solar/gas hybrid desalination plant, at Port Augusta, north of Adelaide. In his spare time, lie runs Desertec in Australia, the US and China from the Sydney beachside suburb of Manly.

A positive for Australia is that our ageing, 1970s-era, coal-fired power plants require replacement in coming years, while the country's electricity grid also needs an overhaul. "The whole system is like a clapped-out Cuban Chevy on its final kilometres," says Taggart. "This replacement cycle represents a blessing in disguise. It's really fortuitous."

Australia's solar, geothermal, wind and wave energy endowments are sufficient to create "a massive clean energy export industry that could one day power Asia".

Apart from a world-class solar resource, Australia also has selective expertise in transmission technology through its 177-kilometre-long Murraylink, the world's longest buried high HVDC power line, and its Tasmania-Victoria Basslink cable, until recently the world's longest subsea HVDC cable.

"It's all shaping up as a beautifully 'perfect storm'," Taggart says. "Coal goes out one door, solar and geothermal come in another, and HVDC power lines tie it all together. Australia's definitely the lucky country."

Flower Power: World's First Hybrid Solar-Gas Turbine Turning on Soon
Fri Jun 12, 2009

The world's first solar hybrid power plant is set to open on June 24 at Kibbutz Samar outside Eilat in southern Israel. When operating at full capacity, the flower-like AORA plant will supply 100 kWs of electric power--enough for 70 households--and 170 kWs of solar thermal energy. AORA's structure is based on technology developed at Israel's Weizmann Institute of Science.

The modular, scaleable plant is made up of 30 mirrors (heliostats) that track the sun and direct it to a 30 foot tall tower, which heats up the energy to 1000 degrees Celsius and directs it to a 100-kW gas turbine that feeds solar energy to the grid. The micro-turbine can be run on solar thermal, biodiesel, natural gas, and biogas.

Since the plant is hybrid, it could theoretically power off-grid systems in developing communities. And since it only takes up half an acre of land, the plant could be used in areas that lack space. As of right now, though, AORA hasn't reached any deals with other countries for solar hybrid power plant distribution.

Concentrating solar-thermal company eSolar hasn’t been shy about taking on new projects.
June 11th, 2009

The Pasadena, Calif.-based company on Thursday announced another one: an agreement to develop a 92-MW plant in southern New Mexico with Princeton, N.J.-based energy company NRG Energy. The companies say they are ready to begin construction on the project, calling it "shovel-ready," and expect it to be fully operational in the summer of 2011.

The announcement is part of the companies' previously announced goal of developing up to 500 MWs of solar thermal power in the United States. This latest project is expected to be the first commercial solar thermal plant in New Mexico, according to the companies, and will feed electricity to the El Paso Electric utility.

It also will be eSolar's first project outside of California, although the company in March signed a deal for Gurgaon, India-based Acme Group to use eSolar technology to build up to 1 gigawatt of solar thermal plants in India. In addition, the company is supplying components — including its heliostats and suntracking technology — to fuel startup Sundrop Fuels. And it's building a 245-MW solar thermal plant for Rosemead, Calif.-based utility Southern California Edison.

That's a lot for a 2-year-old startup to take on at once. But the company is making steady progress. Its Sierra project, a 5-MW demonstration plant in Southern California, has begun producing steam and is scheduled to be connected to the grid this summer, eSolar said Thursday. It had previously expected to have a plant up and running last year.

Plea to wave power firms
12 June, 2009

FIRMS bidding to pioneer commercial marine power production in the Pentland Firth are being encouraged to maximise their use of the local supply chain. Development agencies in the Far North have already had talks with some of the 20 outfits which are in the running to secure leases of the seabed to base turbine ventures.

Several have already opened offices in the area while Dutch-based Tocardo – the first to show its hand – has confirmed plans to build the turbines for its 10-MW prototype at Wick harbour. Since then, a clutch of multi-national companies have outlined larger-scale ventures, including the creation of an onshore computer data processing centre.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise officials are working with Far North companies, Scrabster port operators and the would-be developers to optimise the jobs and economic spin-offs generated for the area. Roy Kirk, HIE's Thurso-based area manager, has revealed it is to hold a "summit meeting" once the Crown Estate announces which companies have been awarded leases.

Speaking to members of Thurso and Wick Trades Union Council on Monday evening, Mr Kirk said he was delighted to learn that 20 companies have made a total of 42 applications for leases. "The response has been fantastic," he said. "It might have been expected for some to say it was too difficult to go ahead in such a difficult economic climate. To have 20 come forward and put in tenders shows they are serious."

He added: "Many of these firms will have invested hundreds of thousands of pounds in plans they don't even know they will be permitted to go ahead with. "They are taking a risk and I'd like to say that we're matching their appetite in making an investment so that come 2011, things are ready to roll."

Mr Kirk said officials will do as much as they can to demonstrate the value to the developers of forming local bases and making use of locally-based suppliers. HIE views the new emerging industry as one of the main hopes to offset the jobs drain under way at Dounreay. "We have a dependent economy at present and we need to create a mixed economy," he said. "We see the developments in the Pentland Firth as an important part in making this change."

Mr Kirk said International Power is one of the companies which has already set up an office in the Far North. He expects others to follow suit before the end of the year as it emerges who has secured the seabed leases. The drive is on to encourage firms to manufacture, maintain and service their sub-sea devices in Caithness.

He said: "We have got the infrastructure and the high-quality skills and technical know-how to do the work and we'll be making sure the developers know this. "If we were to financially assist companies, we'll be looking for guarantees about employment." Mr Kirk said HIE has meanwhile commissioned a series of studies to help facilitate the proposed developments in the Firth, including the required major upgrade of the electricity transmission grid.

HIE is also set to carry out a skills audit to identify any potential gaps in the wide range of jobs which the new industry will require. In his update to the trades council, Mr Kirk said HIE is continuing its new strategy of targeting business support at high-growth companies. It is currently backing 10 firms which have expansion plans expected to inject an extra £11 million per year into the economy.

A further 15 firms are due to be added in the course of this financial year. HIE is also continuing its focus of "transformational" projects at Scrabster harbour, John O'Groats, Wick harbour and Wick Airport. Mr Kirk repeated assurances that the £12m extra funding pledged by HIE for the Far North in October 2006 will not be time-barred. The agency then announced the supplement would be spread over three years.

"There's no time limit on it," said Mr Kirk. "We'll continue to use the funding until it's used up." He is to give an update on the spending already committed from the £12m to members of the Caithness and North Sutherland Regeneration Partnership advisory group meeting today (Friday).

Hot rocks 'cut gas emissions'
June 12, 2009

HOT rocks in the state's Outback could reduce Australia's emissions by about 10 per cent, a new report reveals. Environment group WWF-Australia has studied the potential for the emerging renewable source to provide emission-free electricity all year, independent of the weather, and be a source of employment.

SA has some of the world's best geothermal resources. The 270C hot rocks, several kilometres below the surface, can heat water pumped underground. The water can be used to generate electricity in a surface turbine before it is pumped below to be heated again. Geoscience Australia estimates using just one per cent of the heat resource in the ground would provide enough electricity to produce 26,000 times Australia's annual energy consumption.

The report Power to Change: Australia's Geothermal Future, conducted with the Australian Geothermal Energy Association, found that introducing geothermal energy into the grid by 2050 would reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions generated by electricity by 25 per cent.

The saving would lead to an overall reduction of Australia's emissions of nine per cent. AGEA chief executive Susan Jeanes said geothermal energy could provide all of Australia's electricity sustainably, without greenhouse gas emissions. More Federal Government funding and policy changes must be made to speed up its implementation, she said.

"SA, I suppose, is the heart of the geothermal industry in Australia at this stage.., as 70-80 per cent of the work is happening in SA," she said. The report shows 318 people are employed in the nation's geothermal industry but 3800 jobs could be created by 2020, increasing to 9500 in 2030 and 17,300 in 2050. WWF-Australia chief executive Greg Bourne said the exciting thing about geothermal energy was it could supply power 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Great Lakes Wind and Geothermal jobs down under
June 11

According to officials in Cuyahoga County,Ohio, a new offshore wind development could be built in Lake Erie within three years. The first phase of the project is expected to include three to five turbines, and would provide local manufacturing jobs for many who have been affected by massive cutbacks in the auto industry.

While the cost to develop wind energy in the lake is almost twice as expensive as onshore wind development, the wind speeds tend to be stronger – especially in parts of Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. Developers hope to utilize these robust wind resources to expand the state's wind energy generation.

And nearly 10,000 miles from the strong winds in the Buckeye state, it looks like a burgeoning geothermal industry could spark new job growth in Australia. According to the Australian Geothermal Energy Association, more than 17,000 new jobs could be created in the geothermal industry by 2050. Australia currently has around $1.5 billion in new projects underway.

The Cooper Basin, NSW and South Australia are said to hold massive geothermal potential.