Friday 16 October 2009

Green China set to dominate renewable energy boom

Thursday 15/10/2009 Page: 1

Penny Wong could learn much from China's policies writes Mathew Murphy.

CHINA has long been labelled a global climate change villain - unwilling to commit to a firm emissions reduction target and reluctant to reduce its carbon footprint to the same level as developed countries despite being the world's largest emitter of carbon dioxide. This picture ignores the rapid progress China is making in clean energy development. In fact, in many aspects, China leads the world in the fight against climate change.

As Australian Climate Change Minister Penny Wong arrives in Beijing for high-level talks with China's climate-change policymakers, The Climate Group's recent report, China's Clean Revolution II, highlights what the Asian powerhouse is doing, not just for the sake of the climate, but for its own sake. Changhua Wit, the China director for The Climate Group, said the country's climate change image was undergoing a makeover.

"We are definitely a good guy now," she said. "Where have people been? For a long time China was painted as a bad guy. Countries like China and India have been in that category, but starting this year, with more and more information being disclosed to the international community, they are starting to recognise the contribution that China has been making."

China's top leadership had decided to take an alternative paradigm for the sake of the country, Wit said. "Renewable energy is now considered as a strategic element in the country's future competitiveness internationally." One of the first signs that China has chosen a greener path was its 4 trillion yuan ($A646 billion) stimulus package, with almost 40% directed towards green initiatives. That compared with the United States' injection of $US787 billion ($A867 billion), where 12% ($US94billion) was aimed at renewables, building efficiency and low carbon vehicles, a study by HSBC found.

Australia's commitment falls further back, with $US26.7 billion being spent across the country but only 9% committed to climate change investment. That figure was due mainly to the Government's pink-batt policy to insulate 2.7 million Australian homes. South Korea, the 10th-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, has pledged 80% of its $US38 billion recovery package to clean up the country. UN climate chief Yvo de Boer said China's stimulus package would position it as a world leader in fighting global warming, and well ahead of the US in dealing with climate change.

While China eclipsed the US as the largest national emitter of greenhouse gas in 2007, its 1.3 billion citizens are responsible for less per capita than the US and European Union, and below the global average. To help bring that figure down, further energy efficiency is "the number one priority of the Chinese Government", according to Wu. "China's energy efficiency has improved dramatically but still, if you compare energy efficiency levels to other countries, China is still lagging behind," she said.

The Chinese Government has adopted a multifaceted approach to climate change. Its attention to renewable energy has cone about because it has found a market to sell into. The Climate Group report shows that 44% of the world's solar photovoltaic technology last year was produced by China. "With the global financial crisis, the international solar market almost disappeared, so that had a major impact on the industry," Wit said. "About 70% of the industry in China was consolidated by larger companies like SunTech. What is left in the market are only the leading solar companies." In fact, what is happening in China is affecting Australian solar.

Last month, Solar Systems went into receivership. Its planned 154-MW solar PV power station destined for Victoria's northwest has been mothballed, priced out by a country that is manufacturing solar products at a staggering rate and very cheaply. Growth in installed wind turbines is faster in China than in any other country. Wind power in 2008 topped 12 GWs - a figure that is doubling every year. The country has committed to a renewable energy target of 15% by 2020.

This week China Daily reported a senior energy official as saying China would have 100 GWs of wind-power capacity by 2020 - more than three times the 30 GWs target the Government has proposed. China wants to increase its wind energy capacity to 20 GWs by next year, suggesting it will smash the 2020 target. As the road leads to Copenhagen, and potentially a new global climate change deal, China is in an interesting position. If the world signs up to a post-Kyoto emissions reduction target, then China will assist in bringing down the world's emissions with a big role in manufacturing.

With said the Copenhagen deal needed to offer technology transfer agreements, more robustly than in Kyoto, to get China on board. "China is far behind in developing the low-carbon technology, but has a very strong capability in manufacturing the products for the rest of the world," she said. "The Clean Development Mechanism was to enable technology transfer from developed countries to developing countries. But for the last few years it has become clear that the technology transfer has not been significant at all. "Therefore the CDM has not been playing its role and that was the incentive for the Chinese Government to sign up to Kyoto."

Commentators expect a tough fight to get China over the line at Copenhagen but Chinese President Hu Jintao appears to be listening. Last month he vowed to reduce China's greenhouse gases by a "notable margin' by 2020 but warned that his country's economic growth would not be sacrificed and that cuts would be measured in units of gross domestic product. He would not lock in a commitment on how much China would cut emissions by.

Senator Wong today will meet China's key climate change policymaker, National Development and Reform Commission vice-chairman Xie Zhenhua, to discuss the country's strategy leading to Copenhagen. She will also try to sell the proposal she put forward in the US last month for developing countries, such as China, to commit to their own binding set of measures to reduce emissions but be free from internationally determined targets.

Transfield fund powers ahead

Thursday 15/10/2009 Page: 21

Transfield Services Infrastructure Fund says it had a strong first quarter and is on track to achieve its full-year financial forecasts. Chief executive Steven Mac-Donald told the fund's annual meeting yesterday that work to improve the fund's power station and windfarm assets in the previous year had produced good results to date. "Our wind generation assets have seen a material improvement in availability, which has enabled them to take advantage of strong winds in the 2010 first quarter," Mr MacDonald told security holders. "Our thermal assets have also performed well due to their enhanced capacity and availability. "Overall, we are in good shape to meet our financial objectives in 2010."

Mr MacDonald said in August that he expected the 2009-10 financial performance to be "slightly ahead" of net profit in 2008-09 of $22.1 million, excluding a $60m writedown in the fund's Collinsville power station. Chairman Peter Young told the meeting that the 2010 distribution was expected to be 12 cents per security, in line with the 2008-09 financial year. Security holders overwhelmingly passed all resolutions put to the meeting, including the reelection of Mr Young and the fund's remuneration report.

The majority of the fund's directors received less remuneration in 2008/09 than in the previous financial year. Mr Young said a review of the fund's capital structure was "'progressing well", but it was too early for definitive statements about the potential outcome. TSI Fund has interests in five power stations, four wind farms and two water filtration plants across Australia. Its stapled securities closed steady at 98.5c yesterday.

BP tree spree to offset emissions

Thursday 15/10/2009 Page: 20

EUROPE'S second-largest oil company, BP, has hired Perth based Carbon Conscious to plant 10 million gum trees in Australia to absorb greenhouse gas emissions as companies prepare for the introduction of climate change laws. The deal sent Carbon Conscious shares soaring 10% to close at 44c. The company will begin planting trees on marginal farmland in 2010, at an initial cost of $2.5 million. It is the second major deal for Carbon Conscious, which confirmed an agreement with Origin Energy in July to plant $26m worth of trees over three years.

The trees "sequester" carbon dioxide, pulling it out of the atmosphere and storing it. Carbon Conscious chief executive Peter Balsarini said the mallee eucalyptus trees would be planted on working farms. "We go to farmers and we look for their marginal, less productive country," he said. This included land that had been over-cleared or affected by salinity, Mr Balsarini said. "We are looking at preventing salinity by getting our tree roots into the water table and lowering it. It has risen because of the over-clearing of the land," he said. Carbon Conscious became an accredited provider under the federal government's Greenhouse program last December.

This year it has planted 1500ha on eight farms. Next year it is looking to plant 6000ha. "We are looking at sizeable plantings in the near future that might equate to 25,000ha in Western Australia on a per annum basis," Mr Balsarini said. He would like to see the plantings extended through the eastern wheat belt. Mr Balsarini said the deal with BP was °'a recognition that they see there is value in Australian forestry from a carbon perspective.

They are a European company, they have traded in carbon credits before, and they know the carbon markets well." The trees will produce Australian emission units that will be tradable under the Australian government's proposed carbon pollution reduction scheme. BP's regional director of emissions offsets, Mr Rajeev Suri, said the deal was the initial stage of what might be "a very significant part of BP's carbon management in Australia". Trees must be planted on agricultural land that was cleared before 1990, and must remain in place for 100 years.

Endless Solar to float

Thursday 15/10/2009 Page: 3

WATER-HEATER maker and distributor Endless Solar Corporation has confirmed it plans a public float later this year yet is being coy on which stock exchange it might list on. The Sydney-based Endless, part owned by the listed Authorised Investment Fund, has written to its shareholders about its plan, although there were no financial details on its performance or the size of the float. The company uses what is known as evacuated tube technology, developed in association with clothes hoist maker Hills Industries, to make its domestic water heaters. Endless Solar has been expecting a profit of about $200,000 for the last financial year.

Green energy growth into SA market

Adelaide Advertiser
Thursday 15/10/2009 Page: 46

VICTORIAN-BASED energy company Diamond Energy has applied to enter the South Australian retail market in a national push to grow the company and capitalise on commercial "green-energy" sales. The company will build on its Victorian retailing licence by entering the SA, NSW and Queensland markets. Managing director Tony Sennitt said the company did not intend to have a local presence in the short-term. "As we build generation and retail capacity, we will manage it from Victoria, but when we get plant and sales projects going forward, we are looking at moving into the states," he said. "We have had the model running in Victoria for a couple of years, so it is just a matter of extending our market into the other states, the processes are already there."

The company will focus on selling power generated by its solar, wind and bio-mass projects to new commercial customers, but also will be battling a changing marketplace. "Since the Government made their 20% renewable energy target, we have seen a halving of the value of renewable energy certificates," he said. "In May, it was around $50 - now it's down to $25. "That's why we try to link through directly to customers."

Mr Sennitt would not disclose the company's revenue or customer base, but said he was confident the Essential Services Commission would approve the company's application. Diamond Energy entered the Victorian market in 2007. The company now takes part in several low-carbon projects across Australia through its joint venture with Lend Lease Ventures, a subsidiary of property developer Lend Lease Corporation. The commission is accepting submissions on Diamond Energy's application until November 6.

Need energy? Forget nuclear and go natural
October 14, 2009

Is nuclear energy the only way to meet Australia's future energy needs and cut carbon emissions? The answer is no! On top of the perennial challenges of global poverty and injustice, the two biggest threats facing human civilisation in the 21st century are climate change and nuclear war. It would be absurd to respond to one by increasing the risks of the other. Yet that is what nuclear energy does. Nuclear power, together with nuclear research reactors, helped India, Pakistan and (probably soon) Iran develop nuclear weapons and provided Britain and France with extra plutonium for their nuclear weapons.

It also helped nuclear weapons programs, fortunately discontinued, in Argentina, Brazil, South Korea, Taiwan, South Africa and Libya. The proliferation of nuclear weapons states and the threat of nuclear war did not disappear at the end of the Cold War. One essential step in bringing the threat under control would be to reach an international agreement to bring the two sensitive stages of the nuclear fuel cycle – uranium enrichment and reprocessing of spent fuel – under complete international control.

Nuclear power, based on existing technologies, still has all its original problems: proliferation of nuclear weapons, terrorism, lack of long-term waste management, rare but catastrophic accidents and huge economic costs. All except the risk of accidents are worse now than in the 1970s. In several decades, as high-grade uranium is used up, nuclear energy will also become a substantial emitter of carbon dioxide from uranium mining and milling.

Only a few countries have a high dependence upon nuclear energy, notably Belgium, France, Sweden, Japan and South Korea. It contributes only 2.5 per cent to China's electricity. The global contribution is currently 14 per cent, not 19 per cent. If our governments could muster the political will, Australia could replace all its dirty coal-fired power stations by 2030 with a mix of measures to reduce unnecessary electricity demand and to expand low-carbon energy supply. On the demand side, efficient energy use and solar hot water are economical now over much of Australia.

With a carbon dioxide price in the range of $40 to $50 per tonne, wind energy could grow rapidly to supply 20 per cent and bioelectricity to supply 8 per cent of electricity by 2020. In Europe in 2008, wind energy provided the largest contribution of all new generating capacity. In China, wind energy capacity has doubled every year for the past five years. Such a rapid growth rate cannot be achieved by coal or nuclear.

Incidentally, the claim that in "Germany, Denmark and Spain, experience has made energy authorities reinforce wind energy with baseload coal or nuclear up to 90 per cent of their potential", is false. For instance, Denmark, with 20 per cent of its electricity generated by the wind, draws upon Norwegian hydro when wind speeds are occasionally low. In Australia, wind energy can replace some baseload coal, provided some additional intermittent peakload capacity is provided.

The incorrect notion that renewable energy cannot provide baseload (24-hour) power derives from propaganda disseminated by the coal and nuclear industries and their supporters. A sustainable energy future would have less baseload, thanks to energy efficiency and solar hot water, and more peakload to balance fluctuations. Baseload supply can be provided by a mix of wind, bioelectricity from combustion of residues of existing crops and plantation forests, solar thermal power with low-cost thermal storage and soon hot rock geothermal power.

Peakload power, that can respond rapidly to fluctuations in supply and demand, can be provided by hydro and gas turbines burning biofuels produced sustainably. With the forthcoming growth in electric vehicles, there will be ample electrical storage available in car batteries connected to the grid to smooth out the fluctuations in sunshine and make solar photovoltaic power a reliable source of daytime power. By 2030 it will be technically possible to replace all conventional coal power with the following mixes: wind, bioelectricity and solar thermal each 20 to 30 per cent; solar photovoltaic 10 to 20 per cent; geothermal 10 to 20 per cent; and marine (wave, ocean current) 10 per cent.

natural gas too, provided it hasn't all been sold to China, could be fuelling cogeneration of electricity and heat, trigeneration (electricity, heating and cooling), combined-cycle power stations and back-up for solar hot water, solar thermal electricity and wind energy. There is an embarrassment of riches in the non-nuclear alternatives to coal.

Furthermore, as the report by McKinsey & Co and Company shows, the economic savings from energy efficiency could pay for a large part of the additional costs of renewable energy. The cost of new nuclear energy has escalated rapidly since 2000 to the extent that it's much dearer than wind. A recent study by CA Severance finds that it is now comparable in cost with solar photovoltaic.

What we need is effective policies from federal and state governments:
  • a ban on new conventional coal power;
  • gross feed-in tariffs for small-scale residential and commercial renewable energy generation; - feed-in tariffs for large-scale wind, solar, geothermal and marine power, to replace the flawed Renewable Energy Target;
  • upgraded transmission infrastructure; and
  • a carbon tax with border exemptions to replace the ineffective CPRS (Carbon Pollution Reinforcement Scheme).
Dr Mark Diesendorf is deputy director of the Institute of Environmental Studies, UNSW, and author of Greenhouse Solutions with Sustainable Energy and Climate Action: A campaign manual for greenhouse solutions.

Thursday 15 October 2009

Investors offered stake in Pacific Hydro via $1b Clean Energy Fund

Sydney Morning Herald
Wednesday 14/10/2009 Page: 3

AUSTRALIA'S industry superannuation funds have launched a $1 billion-plus Clean Energy Fund that plans to take a big stake in Pacific Hydro and support future renewable energy developments. Garry Weaven, chairman of Industry Funds Management, an umbrella management group for 36 industry super funds, said investors were being offered a substantial stake in Pacific Hydro through the new Clean Energy Fund. Industry Funds Management put up to 49% of Pacific Hydro up for sale last month, managed by investment bank Lazard.

Initially it was expected the Pacific Hydro stake, valued at about $1 billion, would be taken up by foreign investors or those from the Australian power industry such as AGL and Origin Energy. However, the move to launch the Clean Energy Fund means the asset could stay wholly or largely in the hands of the industry funds sector. Mr Weaven said international investors would be influential in the Pacific Hydro sale regardless of the ultimate outcome. The global players will tend to set the price I think."

However, a range of Australian industry and public sector super funds which "don't have size to be large-scale direct equity investors but have a desire to be investors in renewable energy" would be able to buy in through the new fund, he said. The sale is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year. Industry Funds Management put the Pacific Hydro stake on the market to help fund the renewable energy producer's rapid growth plans. "The company has got bigger and the project pipeline has got bigger and our capacity to keeping the funding up to it has been severely tested," Mr Weaven said.

In 2005, after a bidding war with the Spanish infrastructure group Acciona, Industry Funds Management bought the 68% of Pacific Hydro it did not own. Its final bid valued the company at about $950 million. At the time, MrWeaven said IFM ownership would allow much faster growth because of the super fund's massive and guaranteed annual inflows and its lack of a need to pay dividends to investors.

Pacific Hydro has invested $1.5 billion in Chile in recent years, including raising $200 million from the debt markets at the height of the global financial crisis. That reflected the attractiveness of renewable energy investments to world markets, driven by the limited supply of good projects and regulatory support for the sector, Mr Weaven said. The adoption of a 20% renewable energy target in Australia and growth in the Chilean economy is expected to double Pacific Hydro's generation capacity in both countries in the next few years.

Heat is off power bills

Courier Mail
Wednesday 14/10/2009 Page: 21

QUEENSLANDERS no longer face the prospect of paying the nation's highest power bills after the State Government agreed to scrap a controversial gas scheme once an emissions trading scheme begins. The Queensland Gas Scheme forces electricity retailers to source 13% of sales from gas-fired power generation. The environmentally friendly scheme is designed to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But last year, the Federal Government expressed fears the Queensland scheme could pose "an unnecessary cost on the economy" when an ETS begins.

It would have meant there was a state market-based scheme encouraging the use of gas as well as a nationwide ETS also promoting cleaner forms of energy. But Queensland Energy Minister Stephen Robertson told a Senate inquiry into fuel and energy the state was prepared to budge on the Queensland Gas Scheme if the ETS ticked all the boxes. "The Queensland Government is committed to transitioning the scheme once it is satisfied that the objectives of the gas scheme are efficiently serviced through the carbon pollution reduction scheme (or a similar scheme)," he said.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is attempting to navigate his centrepiece climate change policy through a hostile Senate. The Coalition is drafting business-friendly amendments which will be put before a joint party room meeting of Liberal and Nationals MPs on Sunday. Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull needs the support of a majority before he can begin negotiating with Labor. Treasurer Wayne Swan said yesterday claims by the Opposition power prices would jump by 30 to 40% under an ETS were alarmist. It comes as Independent Senator Nick Xenophon said he was disappointed the debate on an ETS had focused on Opposition divisions rather than the actual legislation. "The focus has been on what the Coalition is doing rather than on the government scheme.

It is the government scheme we need to look at," Senator Xenophon told Sky News. "It is important that the Liberals go to the negotiating table in good faith but they need to have a scheme that actually delivers both in environmental terms and in economic terms." Senator Xenophon said the Government appeared amenable to some amendments around the edges but what was needed were more fundamental changes to the way the electricity industry was treated. He said prices were set to skyrocket and that would be an impost on every business.

EAC to buy 113.5 MW from Cyprus private wind farms
October 12, 2009

Cyprus has moved closer to reaching the European Union's renewable energy target by 2020, with the birth of the first wind park on the island, as the state-owned Electricity Authority of Cyprus has pledged to buy 113.5 MWs of energy from two new operators - Orites windfarm in Paphos and Ketonis windfarm in Larnaca. With the EAC's installed capacity presently at 1170MW, the two wind farms will supply the public utility with the equivalent of 10% of its current generation needs, until three further projects add some 840 MW more to its electricity network.

The first wind park in Orites near Paphos, expected to be operational by next summer, was inaugurated last week with the EUR 200 mln 82 MW project billed the largest of its kind in the Mediterranean region. "It is a very big project. Normally in Europe - especially in Greece and Spain - they consider 20 to 30 MW a huge project, so 82 MW is a massive project. It is the biggest in the region," Akis Ellinas, chairman of the windfarm D.K. Wind Supply Ltd., told Reuters. Financing for the project was secured by British company Platina Partners, with the European Investment Bank providing 50% of the loan under a conventional project finance structure.

Once operational, the site - - which is the first to benefit from the new 20-year fixed rate tariff recently approved by the Cyprus government and the EU Commission - - will be home to 41 turbines. Split into two phases encompassing 140 MW in total, the 16 square km windfarm is the first private sector power project on the island. "It was very difficult because we faced governmental people who had no idea what energy or wind farms meant. Some people thought it was a monster, others, something from space," said Ellinas.

According to estimates, Cyprus has enough wind capacity to keep the towering white windmills turning to power 50,000 households, save 100,000 tons of carbon emissions and produce 120,000 Kilowatt hours of energy annually. "Cyprus is not among the windiest areas in the world. I'd say we have something in the region of 6 meters per second and around 1,600 hours annually. But with new technology, like the Vestas 2MW V90 turbines which we are installing at the moment, it helps," said Ellinas. "That represents almost 3% of Cyprus's requirements toward EU regulations and targets," Ellinas said.

EIB paves the way
The EIB is providing EUR 65 million for the Orites windfarm in the first substantial renewable energy project in Cyprus. The project concerns the design, construction and operation of an 82 MW windfarm of 41 turbines, promoted by the European Renewable Energy Fund I. The public ground breaking ceremony was done by Interior Minister Neoklis Sylikiotis in the presence of House President Marios Garoyian, EIB Vice-President Plutarchos Sakellaris, diplomats and business associates.

Sakellaris, whose responsibilities include the EIB's lending activities in Cyprus as well as energy issues, said that this project "paves the way for further developments in the sector, and brings the Cypriot government closer to its target and the EU's objective for renewable energy production. This is of particular importance for Cyprus, whose electricity network is not interconnected and has no other indigenous energy resources. We were ready to participate in a finance structure taking direct project risk.

"The EU objective for renewable energy will be a major challenge, as the required investment could be in the order of EUR 600-700 bln up to 2020. We are ready to play a strong and active role in supporting the member states' efforts with adequate funding and tailored finance products," added Sakellaris. This project contributes significantly to the government's target of producing 13% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. It also represents 27% of the required installed wind energy capacity of 300MW by 2020. The implementation of the project was mindful of environmental aspects and is based on a multi-contract approach, bringing together know-how from leading EU companies including Vestas and Siemens.

Larnaca wind farm to add 31.5 MW
The EAC has signed a purchase agreement with Ketonis Developments Ltd., to buy a further 31.5 MW from a windfarm underway near the Larnaca villages of Alethriko and Tersefanou. The contract was signed last week by Charilaos Hadjigerou on behalf of the EAC and Makis Ketonis on behalf of the operator. The new venture includes renewable energy consultants Wincono Cyprus, whose Managing Director Sylvia Tribert was present at the contract signing. Following a similar agreement signed with the Orites windfarm in July, the EAC will be buying a total of 113.5 MW from the two new operators, with an additional 58 MW expected to come on stream from the second phase of the Orites venture.

EIB energy funding in Cyprus The EIB has supported a number of energy projects in Cyprus as it has been involved in the part-financing of most of the EAC's electricity generation and network development investments. This includes loans totalling EUR 200 million for the Vassilikos electricity power plant and the bank's support for the upgrading of the electricity transmission and distribution network, for a total of EUR 130 million.

A further EUR 30 mln has gone to a new internal combustion engine power plant at the Dhekelia power station. Initially powered with heavy fuel oil, the plant can be retrofitted to natural gas, once this becomes available on Cyprus. The EIB financing of the Orites project was one of the elements that led Euromoney to award the "Lender of the Year" title to the EIB. The bank is seen as a front-runner and a leader in promoting investments across the renewable energy sector. It is also serving as an important example of project lending in a difficult financial climate.

Geothermal power plant
13 October 2009

Geothermal Engineering has outlined plans to establish the UK's first commercial-scale geothermal power plant near Redruth in Cornwall. Geothermal systems use the Earth's natural heat as a sustainable power source. Wells will be drilled to approximately 5km where temperatures are expected to exceed 170C. Water will be pumped down into the rock where it is naturally heated, before being pumped back to the surface as hot water or steam. The heated water will be used to power turbines to generate electricity and as a source of renewable heat.

The plant will supply 10MW of base-load electricity to the National Grid and up to 55MW of renewable heat for local use. The planned start date for drilling is 2010, subject to planning approval, with the plant operational by 2013. Over the next 20 years, Geothermal Engineering plans to deliver up to 300MW of clean, sustainable electricity and up to 1GW of renewable heat for communities across the South West of England. Geothermal Engineering will work with Cornwall Council, local universities and residents in the area to plan how the renewable heat from the plant can be used to best serve the community.

Geothermal Engineering was founded in 2008 by Ryan Law who has 10 years' experience in geothermal energy, primarily working with the global engineering consultancy Arup. Geothermal Engineering's technical board includes Dr Tony Batchelor who ran the original Hot Dry Rock geothermal research project in Cornwall that was in operation between 1976 and 1991.

Ryan Law, managing director of Geothermal Engineering, said: 'Geothermal energy has been in use for millennia, even in the UK where the Romans used it for bathing. Modern technology allows us to target deeper, hotter geothermal resources to provide a sustainable source of electricity and heat. Our vision is to provide renewable heat and power at minimal environmental cost.'

Wednesday 14 October 2009

Leading us down the path to ruin

Hobart Mercury
Tuesday 13/10/2009 Page: 20

IF Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull are feeling the heat over the climate summit in Copenhagen in December, here's why. A big UN survey of recent scientific research has revealed the terrifying inadequacy of current national promises to cut carbon emissions. Science tells us that a 2C global temperature rise above preindustrial levels is a danger point, above which we really don't want to go. If we get to 6C we are fast approaching Armageddon, with civilisation long vanished and only polar regions able to sustain life. But Armageddon, it would seem, is where our governments are taking us.

The UN Environment Program's just-released 2009 Science Compendium has revealed the present global emissions trajectory will bring us warming of more than 8C by the end of the century. If currently promised national policies come to fruition, we will keep the rise down to about 6.3C. This is the result of the yawning gap between scientific evidence and political "realism". Our political masters - and we must include opposition politicians in this as well as governments - seen incapable of understanding that urgent and decisive action is the only option. They're not alone, of course. Some business leaders and senior bureaucrats, apparently unperturbed by the evidence, behave as if we can continue business as usual while postponing reform.

The Rudd Government's emissions scheme with its enormous subsidies to heavy-polluting big business, aims for a target that if universally adopted would put the world on a path to more than 550 parts per million of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Despite this, opposition members are arguing that business is being too harshly treated. What planet are they on? Far from allowing the level of carbon in the atmosphere to rise well above its present 390ppm, science is telling us that we've somehow got to find a way to reduce it - and quickly.

Early last year, Dr James Hansen, chief scientist at NASA's Goddard Institute, warned that 350ppm was the absolute upper limit if we want our planet to stay the way it has been throughout our civilised existence. The paper used prehistoric evidence to show that anything above that would raise warning above the danger level of 2C. On the basis of this landmark paper, long-three US environmental activist Bill McKibben set up a group called, calling for world action to reduce carbon dioxide levels to below what Hansen's research team had found to be a safe upper limit.

This will be a tough assignment. Recent emissions have already brought melting of polar and mountain ice, rising sea levels and devastating droughts and storms. The task will demand a much speedier shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy than envisaged by government and business. But it must be done. October 24 has been designated by as the "International Day of Climate Action". Concerned people around the world have taken up its call to demonstrate to political leaders and the public at large the critical urgency of this mission. They especially want to make an impression on those attending the Copenhagen summit.

Thousands of events around the world on the day will include city rallies, mountaintop banners, island protests against seawater inundation, religious ceremonies, sporting events and numberless community-organised demonstrations. Each event will highlight the number 350, a photograph of which will be posted at as part of a "global visual petition". I don't easily take to public demonstrations, but this is a global event I'll be very glad to be part of.

Australians warming to N-power

Tuesday 13/10/2009 Page: 1

AUSTRALIANS are warming to the idea of nuclear energy, with almost one in two saying it should be considered as an alternative source of energy to help combat global warming. An Age/Nielson poll found 49% of Australians believed nuclear should be on the nation's list of potential power options, while 43% were opposed outright. The finding marks a big shift of public opinion from 2006, when a Newspoll showed just 38% in favour of nuclear energy and 51% opposed.

But ahead of the Copenhagen climate change conference in December, the Rudd Government has restated its total opposition to using nuclear energy to help Australia meet its future carbon reduction targets. During the 2007 election campaign, after prime minister John Howard tried to put nuclear energy on the agenda, then opposition leader Kevin Rudd said: "If you elect a Labor government, there will be no nuclear reactors in Australia, full stop." Supporters of nuclear energy say it is the only practical low emissions alternative to coal for generating baseload electricity the minimum required by industry and residential users.

Ziggy Switkowski, who chairs the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, said Australia was the only developed nation that believed it could make deep cuts to carbon emissions without resorting to nuclear energy. "[We must] provide for the next generation of baseload electricity generation with clean energy. The only way to do that is with nuclear energy," Dr Switkowski said. Support for consideration of nuclear energy is strongest among Coalition supporters (58% ), and opposition was strongest among Greens voters (62% opposed). ALP voters were evenly divided, with 46% in favour and 46% opposed. But only 13% of them expressed strong support, while strong opposition among Labor voters was 24%.

Survey respondents were told: "The introduction of nuclear energy has been suggested as one means to address climate change", and then asked: "Do you support or oppose the Federal Government considering the introduction of nuclear energy in Australia?" Federal Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson restated the Government's opposition to nuclear energy as a way of meeting Australia's future greenhouse commitments.

However, he also cast doubt on the effectiveness of photovoltaic solar energy, one of the technologies championed as a possible future renewable energy resource. Mr Ferguson told The Age he doubted that photovoltaic would ever make a significant contribution to Australia's energy needs. But lie believed solar thermal technology, which uses the sun's heat to boil liquids such as water to power a generating turbine, was more likely to be the answer. Mr Ferguson said the main problem with renewables was the inability to store energy.

He said the renewable sector kept insisting it was an alternative to coal as baseload power and this was not the case. "So if we are going to make progress on the solar front you are thinking about similar energy outcomes, that's why storage is the issue," Mr Ferguson said. "We are like every country trying to balance reducing energy. But this goes against an International Energy Agency prediction that global energy demand is likely to increase 40% by 2030."

Victorian Energy Minister Peter Batchelor dismissed nuclear energy as an option for the state. He said increased reliance on lower-emitting gas, clean coal and renewable energy sources were the way ahead. Mr Batchelor defended the Government's energy record, saying it had added 2000 MWs' capacity since coming to office. However, hopes for a cleaner future for Victoria's power industry received a setback last month with the abandonment of a "carbon capture" project at a proposed coal power station near Morwell, which instead is to become a gas-fired station.

HRL Ltd said the planned Morwell plant would be fitted with carbon capture technology "when commercially viable". In another setback last month for the renewable energy sector, Solar Systems, which was to have developed a 154-MW solar photovoltaic power station near Mildura, was put into administration. Recent protests at Hazelwood power station in the Latrobe Valley have highlighted the fact that most of Australia's greenhouse gases emissions come from generating electricity by burning coal.

Coal is Australia's biggest income earner, making the country coal dependent for energy and exports. Australia also has the highest greenhouse emissions per head in the world. Meanwhile, a separate opinion poll has found that climate change is dropping as a priority for Australians. Australians have gone from ranking climate change in 2007 as the equal most important foreign policy goal, to putting its seventh out of 10 possible goals, the annual Lowy Institute poll found.

QuestIon: Do you support or oppose the Federal Government considering the introduction of nuclear power in Australia?
49% supported the proposal
43% were opposed
62% of Green voters opposed
58% of Coalition voters supported

California heats up incentives for solar power
Oct 12, 2009

LOS ANGELES, Oct 12 (Reuters) - California is heating up its push for clean energy, as Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger approved a new subsidy for solar energy on Monday and joined forces with the federal government to fast-track renewable energy projects. California has the most aggressive renewable energy goals in the United States, which Schwarzenegger increased last month when he ordered that the state get a third of its electricity from renewable resources by 2020.

FBR Capital Markets analyst Mehdi Hosseini said the new subsidy for solar generation could be "explosive" on top of the existing investment tax credit for installing solar systems. "This is above and beyond the subsidies that are already in place," Hosseini said. feed-in tariffs set a higher price for renewables, and in Germany, such tariffs have pushed the country to be the world's market leader in solar energy.

New Programs
California's new solar program guarantees that utilities will pay owners of commercial solar systems - - up to 3 MWs in size - - a higher price for solar electricity, a subsidy meant to spur development of solar rooftop systems. Currently, if utilities want to charge more than the retail price for such systems they have to ask for permission from regulators. Now the California Public Utilities Commission will set the price. Hosseini estimates the tariff could be between 15 and 17 cents per kW hour and could help drive as much as 500 MW worth of new commercial rooftop systems in 2010.

Schwarzenegger also signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of the Interior on Monday to speed development of up to 7,000 MWs of large-scale renewable energy projects. Large-scale renewable energy projects have raised environmental, permitting and transmission issues across the United States and the governor cited "mountains of red tape" as a major roadblock.

"We have to build now renewable energy plants in the desert and we have to at the same time make sure we protect our environment," Schwarzenegger said in webcast remarks. The new agreement aims to push along projects - - such as Chevron Corp's (CVX.N) plans for a 500-MW solar energy facility in Riverside County - - that can break ground by the end of 2010 and thus qualify for more than $15 billion in stimulus funds available for green projects.

Winners From New Subsidy
Under the new feed-in tariff for solar projects, California-based SunPower Corp (SPWRA.O) could win big, said Hosseini, citing its extensive dealer network across California and its own system business. Hosseini said that some Chinese solar players such as SunTech Power Holdings Co Ltd (STP.N) could gain from the subsidy as well, but that FirstSolar Inc's (FSLR.O) panels are not likely to benefit as much since they are less efficient at converting sunlight to electricity. Schwarzenegger also approved a measure on Sunday that will require utility companies to pay customers for surplus solar electricity generated on an annual basis. Previously under the state's net-metering law, utilities could receive that extra electricity from their customers for free.

California announces plan to develop solar energy resources
October 12, 2009

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has announced a memorandum of understanding with the Department of Interior that is expected to speed up siting decisions for solar energy and other similar projects in the state. According to the governor's office, the memorandum is the first of its kind and will help the state achieve its goal of generating one-third of its power from renewable sources by 2020. The agreement calls for the development of detailed maps featuring the best areas for renewable energy development, taking factors like conservation into account as well.

"We know our future is in clean power, clean energy and clean technology, and we are taking action so California will be able to meet its ambitious renewable energy and environmental goals," said Schwarzenegger. Under the agreement, power transmission corridors are expected to be identified by the end of 2010, and input from the Department of Defense will be sought because of the expectation that some of these lines will be crossed by land it maintains. Schwarzenegger also noted that the memorandum will help expedite solar energy and other projects set to break ground by next December so they can qualify for tax incentives under the federal stimulus bill.

Tuesday 13 October 2009

Introducing the Most Efficient Solar Power in the World
October 8, 2009

In 1986 solar panels were literally ripped from the White House roof. But political will and financial incentives have reignited the search for efficient, affordable ways to harness the sun's energy. Two new solar thermal technologies-which focus sunlight to create heat rather than convert it directly to electricity, as photovoltaics do-promise to make solar energy practical at vastly different scales.

The SunCatcher solar thermal system, developed by Tessera Solar and built by Stirling Energy Systems at the Sandia National Laboratories' National Solar Thermal Test Facility, captures solar energy at 31.25% efficiency, the highest ever achieved by this technology. Each of SunCatcher's 38-foot-wide dishes collects enough heat energy to run a Stirling engine that can then generate 25 kWs of electric power. The system will fulfill two of the world's largest solar contracts, providing a planned 1,600 MWs to Southern California by 2014. It improved on its predecessor with a new design that makes each dish substantially lighter and cheaper to manufacture.

Meanwhile, a group of recent and current MIT engineering students is working to bring solar thermal to Africa with an off-grid system that operates on a much smaller scale. The team has developed a microgenerator capable of producing 3 kWs of electric power plus hundreds of gallons of hot water each day using relatively inexpensive, readily available components such as auto parts. Engineer and cofounder Amy Mueller says that the MIT group's nonprofit, called STG International, has already set up microgenerators at two locations in Lesotho. A third Lesotho installation is under construction at a medical clinic, where it will provide power for lighting and communications equipment as well as hot water.

Renewable target needs a rethink

Monday 12/10/2009 Page: 26

THE accelerating slump in the price of renewable energy certificates is putting pressure on the federal government to review the structure of the system that supports its renewable energy target. The price of certificates fell more than 15% last week to $28, its lowest in almost three years, extending a steady slide since reaching a peak of $51 in May and taking the fall since the renewable energy target legislation was passed in August to 30%. Certificates, each representing 1MW hour of renewable energy produced, are the currency generated by the renewable energy target scheme and are supposed to bridge the gap between the price of coal and gas-fired energy and renewables.

But the market is being swamped by certificates generated by domestic solar hot water and heat pump systems, and some industry analysts say if this continues it could last for several years and may cause the delay or cancellation of wind energy and other renewable projects because the price signal will simply not be strong enough to make the projects viable. The renewable energy industry is putting pressure on the government to alter the scheme by creating a separate heat market for solar hot-water systems and heat pumps, particularly if governments mandate that all new houses be equipped with solar hot water.

And the industry is calling for annual targets to be adjusted and take into account the anticipated flood of phantom certificates created by the multiple credits allowed for household solar systems. But there is a view in the industry that some government bureaucrats are happy with the present situation because they do not believe the target, which calls for the production of 45,000GW hours of renewable energy by 2020, can be met by renewable energy sources alone and are happy for the heat technology to fill the gap. The market slump might suit energy retailers such as Origin Energy, AGL and TRUEnergy, which need to either buy certificates to meet target obligations, or who are less affected by the market because they source their supply of certificates from their own windfarm developments.

With green power comes great responsibility - It's time politicians listened to scientists on wind and solar energy.

Saturday 10/10/2009 Page: 5

CLIMATE change is a diabolic problem, but the brightest minds are working fiendishly to find genuine solutions, and they will carry the day. One such is David Mills, one of our most successful scientists, formerly from the Sydney University who quit Australia a decade ago to launch solar energy company Ausra in California. It was one of our best brain-drain moments. Dr Mills is participating in a US study that will soon put paid to that old chestnut- let's quote Malcolm Turnbull from 2007, but it could have been any mainstream Australian politician today - "you cannot run a modern economy on wind farms and solar panels".

In a project funded byAl Gore's Alliance for Climate Protection, America's energy utilities gave researchers at Stanford University a data dump of all the electricity used across the country in 2006 - hour by hour-to get a full picture of the load that year. The scientists then calculated whether that demand could have been met using the available wind and solar energy. Without preempting the results, which will be released next month, Dr Mills this week gave a pretty clear indication- yes, it can.

"We are finding that solar and wind are a beautiful match for each other and together can carry almost the entire electrical load of a large economy," he said in a Deakin lecture in Melbourne on Tuesday. A key factor is connectivity of the power grid. With thousands of wind turbines installed across the country, for example, the wind will generally be blowing somewhere. Dr Mills says if interconnected wind is used on a large scale, a third or more of its energy can be used as reliable electric power. A key factor is energy storage, the hottest area of research with about 20 programs under way worldwide. The storage can allow solar thermal power stations to run into the night.

In a separate study two years ago, Dr Mills found that 93% of California's annual grid electricity could be supplied by solar thermal power stations with just 15 hours storage. solar thermal stations with storage could supply 95% of the US annual grid, using land of 140 kilometres square. OK, you ask, but how much does this interconnected wind and solar grid cost? Well, costs haven't been factored into the Stanford study. But Dr Mills won't enter the game of swapping cents-per-kW-hour forecasts for plants installed in future years based on theoretical cost curves and as-yet-unknown technological developments.

The comparisons are false anyway. Coal has all its development and infrastructure funding built in, and is taking a terrible toll on the planet. The nuclear industry, Dr Mills says, is highly secretive about its true generation costs, and it got huge subsidies and public investment during the Cold War. Anyway, the cost of renewable energy solutions is dropping quickly as competition intensifies; further, the cost of inaction is going up as governments squabble and climate change accelerates.

For example, among rival bidders for solar thermal development contracts including Australia's $1.5 billion Solar Flagships program (which aims to part-fund development of 1000 MWs of solar generation capacity) - Dr Mills says costs are going "through the floor". Dr Mills says Ausra has the cheapest solar thermal technology in the market. But recently the 850-MW Calico (Solar One) project in California, being developed by Tessera Solar and Stirling energy Systems, was costed at $US2.2 billion ($A2.4 billion).

That costing, he says, is aggressive and will be challenging for older technology. "It will drop the price bar of solar again if it's true," he says. It's exciting, and Dr Mills has no doubt wind and solar can power Australia as well, even though we have a smaller population (concentrated on the coast, where cloud increases) and fewer generators and wind speeds here are lower than in the US. "I believe this will bias Australia toward a larger fraction of storage solar and a smaller fraction of uncontrollable wind," he says. "It is becoming clear that [concentrating solar thermal] with storage is the logical future of electrical generation for Australia."

Dr Mills says concentrating solar thermal is going through a flowering of design and form, as did the development of cars and aircraft. The project pipeline is substantial. While only 600 MWs of solar thermal power is up and running worldwide, another 400 MWs is under construction and there are 14,000 MWs of "serious" concentrating solar thermal (CST) projects being developed. He says the solar thermal market as a whole is set for takeoff in 2015, but after a round of meetings he worries Australian politicians and executives are not up to speed on the progress being made in this field overseas. His observation includes representatives of our energy companies, who Dr Mills says "should know".

Compare Dr Mills' intelligence and vision for the future with that of two key figures in our climate change debate: federal Energy and Resources Minister Martin Ferguson and his Opposition counterpart (and Howard government predecessor) Ian MacFarlane (for his form, check Wikipedia). Whatever these two nowadays-closet sceptics negotiate for an emissions trading scheme, it won't work: it will try to prop up the industries of the past and it won't last, because a worsening climate crisis will quickly overtake it.

Australia Set to Grant A$300 Million in Renewable Energy Funds
Oct. 9

Australia is close to allocating A$300 million ($270 million) in renewable-energy grants as it seeks to reduce carbon pollution and spur development of clean-power technology. The selection of winning companies from 36 applications is almost complete and an announcement is likely "in the near future," Michael Bradley, spokesman for Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson, said yesterday. The government's Renewable Energy Demonstration Program is aimed at sparking the commercial use of emerging ocean, geothermal and other technologies. Australia, the world's biggest exporter of coal, is pursuing a target of deriving 20% of its power from clean energy by 2020.

"Eighteen months ago you would have said this is one of the worst places in the world for renewable energy, full stop," said Michael Ottaviano, managing director of Carnegie Corporation, one of the companies seeking the grant money. "But I think that's changing. This program goes a long way to helping new technologies get into the marketplace." For Carnegie Corporation, which plans to finance a commercial demonstration project using its wave power technology, the grant would be "an extremely significant event," Ottaviano said. Investec, the South African investment firm, is set to provide as much as A$250 million in funds to Carnegie Corporation if the company secures the government grant and achieves other goals, the companies announced in April.

Stock Doubles
Carnegie Corporation was trading at 23 Australian cents at 11:12 a.m, in Sydney. The stock has more than doubled in 2009. The government is considering applications from a range of companies in the ocean, geothermal and biomass sectors, Bradley said in a phone interview, declining to be more specific about the timeline for distributing the funds. Each grant is expected to be between A$50 million and A$100 million, the government has said. Some A$135 million of the original funds was transferred to the government's solar funding program. Other companies that have applied for grants include GeoDynamics Ltd, and Petratherm Ltd., developers of hot-rock geothermal projects, according to documents lodged with the Australian Stock Exchange.

Texas nuclear power plant expansion moving forward
Oct. 9, 2009

SAN ANTONIO - Sunshine and wind may be plentiful in Texas, but they aren't enough to power the city of San Antonio, according to officials backing a $13 billion effort to expand a South Texas nuclear plant into the largest in the nation. Months of escalating debate over plans to double the number of nuclear reactors at the South Texas Project to four is leading up to a city council vote this month over whether to invest another $400 million to keep the project on track.

Mayor Julian Castro supports the city-owned utility's nuclear expansion, while nuclear energy opponents and environmentalists worry that the plant may be vulnerable to terrorism and say the project conflicts with the city's green efforts. "I think the last 20 years have provided a chance to reality test that we have a safe, reliable source of power in nuclear energy," Castro said. When announced in 2007, the expansion plan marked the first licensing request in nearly 30 years to the federal government for new nuclear reactors. The South Texas Project is one of four proposed nuclear sites picked for U.S. Department of Energy loan guarantees.

Located about 90 miles southwest of Houston, the plant expects to have the two new reactors up and running by 2018. The four combined units will produce 5,700 MWs of energy, making the South Texas Project the largest nuclear energy plant in the nation, facility spokesman Buddy Eller said. Opposition and concerns over costs have shadowed the plan, which is a partnership between Princeton, N.J.-based NRG Energy Inc, and CPS Energy, San Antonio's city-owned utility.

CPS Energy interim general manager Steve Bartley told city leaders this week the expansion could be part of a "nuclear renaissance" in the country. Bartley said the nuclear expansion will provide affordable, carbon-free energy for a predicted energy shortfall starting around 2020. "We believe nuclear is the best long-term solution," Bartley said. San Antonio already gets about one-third of its power from the South Texas Project's two reactors, which were built in the 1980s. But the push for nuclear expansion comes as San Antonio is trying to become one of the nation's greenest cities under an ambitious plan rolled out this year. The Mission Verde plan would transform the nation's seventh-largest city into an oasis of green jobs and renewable energies such as solar and wind energy. City Councilwoman Mary Alice Cisneros has raised questions about whether the nuclear expansion contradicts with the city's green agenda.

Nuclear opponents have called it flat-out hypocrisy. "San Antonio could be the greenest city in North America, easily, if they fund this same money appropriately," said Karen Hadden of the Austin-based Sustainable Energy & Economic Development Coalition. CPS officials, though, say power solely from wind and solar sources is not yet efficient or cost-effective enough to meet the city's large energy demands. The utility said putting the same amount of money toward solar energy instead of nuclear, for example, would produce just one-fifth of the energy.

Castro called the nuclear choice practical and noted the utility is putting at least another $5.7 billion toward expanding renewable options like solar and wind energy and other environmental upgrades. The city council is set to vote Oct. 29 on whether to approve the $400 million needed to keep the project going and settle on CPS having a 20 to 25% ownership stake in the two new reactors. That is down from the original 40% investment the utility sought. Bartley said "recessionary effects" have led the utility to try and sell down its original 40% stake. CPS said it will begin looking for a buyer, and NRG Energy spokesman Dave Knox said plans for the plant will move forward regardless of what the city decides.

Texas firm will tap power of the Gulf
Oct. 8, 2009

A Texas firm plans to use power generated by the Gulf of Mexico's waves to make its salty water drinkable.

Renew Blue Inc, says its project can address two global problems - climate change and scarce drinking water - by using clean energy to turn seawater to freshwater. The company has a lease from the state of Texas to place the facility in 25 feet of water about a mile off the coast from Freeport. It will use 18 specially designed, wave-powered pumps to send water over a wheel that will turn a small electric turbine. Power from the turbine will light the platform and run a 3,000-gallon-per-day desalination plant, said Doug Sandberg, vice president of Renew Blue's parent company, Independent Natural Resources Inc.

The desalinated water will be stored in a 30,000-gallon tank on the platform and then transported to shore, where it will be put in bottles made from corn-based plastic and marketed under the Renew Blue brand. The idea of generating electricity via ocean waves and currents has been around for several decades but is still in its early stages. Six% of U.S, electricity came from hydroelectric dams in 2008, according to the Department of Energy. Electricity generated that way - turning turbines with water backed up behind dams - is called hydropower, in contrast to hydrokinetic power, which uses existing currents and waves. A 2007 study by the Electric Power Research Institute found that the U.S, could develop at least 13,000 MWs of river- and ocean-based hydrokinetic power projects by 2025.

Several large projects have been proposed in recent years, but some have suffered setbacks. Earlier this year, for example, Pelamis Wave Power pulled its three large generators out of waters off the coast of Portugal, citing technical and financial difficulties. But Houston-based Hydro Green successfully placed a hydrokinetic water turbine just downstream from a hydropower plant on the Mississippi River in Hastings, Minn., this year that can generate up to 100 kWs. Conroe resident's pump Sandberg said the need for drinking water and clean energy are among major problems the world faces, and his company hopes its technology "will demonstrate a way to solve both those problems."

The offshore lease is the first the state has granted for the production of energy using ocean waves. The project will use a patented system called the Seadog, developed by Conroe-area resident Kenneth Welch Jr. A disk-shaped buoy rises and falls with the waves to move a piston that pumps water - either directly through a turbine or into an elevated storage tank that then releases water over a water wheel. The company and researchers from Texas A&M University's marine engineering technology department have tested the pump in the waters off Freeport and Galveston.

The project is designed to demonstrate the potential of the Seadog pumps, particularly for island nations or regions with stronger wave activity, such as off the coasts of Ireland or Africa, said Sandberg. Average wave heights along the Gulf Coast run about 3 or 4 feet, compared to 7 to 10 feet along Pacific and Atlantic coasts, Sandberg said. But testing in the relatively calm Gulf waters, where state and local officials have welcomed the work, gives the company a good showcase for potential customers.

The 18 Seadog pumps in the project off Freeport will be able to generate up to 60 kWs of electricity, depending on wave size. The desalination equipment only requires about 4 kWs, leaving power to run lighting on the platform, said Sandberg. INR, in business for seven years, has survived strictly on funding from "angel" investors, individuals willing to put their own money into the business. CEO Mark Thomas said the company will look to institutional investors for future funding or enter joint ventures on larger scale projects.

eSolar Expands Solar Mission to South Africa
09 Oct 2009

PASADENA, Calif. & JOHANNESBURG - (Business Wire) eSolar, a leading provider of modular, scalable solar thermal power technology, has partnered with Johannesburg-based Clean Energy Solutions (CES) to open eSolarSA to expand sales operations across Sub-Saharan Africa. Through the agreement, CES is granted the exclusive right to represent and distribute eSolar's concentrating solar energy technology throughout a seven-country region, including the Republic of South Africa, Namibia and Botswana.

"With local partners on three continents and a commercially proven technology, eSolar is ready to expand its global footprint and further its goal of making solar energy competitive with fossil fuels," said Bill Gross, CEO of eSolar. "Africa boasts one of the highest solar resource on the planet, and eSolar's modular, scalable technology is well-positioned to establish the continent as a leader in the development of low-cost, no-carbon energy solutions."

Working closely with eSolar, CES will operate eSolarSA as a separate entity responsible for project support and client service in Southern Africa. Leading eSolarSA's efforts will be renewable energy advocate Stuart Fredman, currently the managing director of CES, a South African developer of utility-scale renewable energy projects. The region has made aggressive moves to boost renewable energy capacity, with the South African government notably setting the goal to provide 10,000 GW hours of electricity from renewable resources by 2013.

"Sub-Saharan Africa's tremendous solar resource has gone relatively untapped, but now, with eSolar's technology, we can establish Southern Africa as a new hotspot for solar development," said Mr. Fredman. "eSolar's CSP technology is the perfect fit for South Africa in its quest to generate affordable, clean energy and develop local jobs, particularly in rural areas."

This deal marks the continued global expansion of eSolar. In February, eSolar signed a development and licensing agreement with the ACME Group for the development of 1,000 MW of solar energy plants in India over the next 10 years with construction starting this year. In the United States, eSolar partnered with NRG Energy, Inc., to deploy up to 465 MWs of solar electricity. By building its plants in small 46 MW units sited on 80 hectares (200 acres) and leveraging locally sourced, prefabricated components, eSolar's plants overcome the key obstacles facing solar deployment – namely, price, speed of deployment and grid impact.

Recently, eSolar unveiled its Sierra SunTower power plant in Southern California, the only commercially operating solar energy tower plant in North America. The 5 MW plant provides enough power for 4,000 area homes at peak production and created 250 jobs at the height of construction.

Monday 12 October 2009

Solar scheme gets cool reception as suppliers shun government offer - Bligh in hot water

Courier Mail
Friday 9/10/2009 Page: 5

MAJOR solar hot water suppliers have shunned the State Government's solar scheme, putting one of Labor's key election commitments in doubt. The Government has been forced to begin the rollout of 200,000 cut-price solar hot water systems and pumps across Queensland households with just one small supplier, more than three months behind schedule. It will have to reopen its invitation to larger suppliers in the hope that they will enter the scheme, or risk being unable to supply the more than 10,000 completed applications already received for the systems.

The program, which was one of the Bligh Government's key climate change election commitments, was to supply 200,000 solar hot water systems or heat pumps for just $500 for residents, or $100 for pensioners, through a bulk buying arrangement. Energy Minister Stephen Robertson admitted the supplier, Conergy, was risky due to its size, but said major distributors had refused to partake in the scheme. "This has been a challenging program to deliver, particularly in an environment where the price of renewable energy certificates have been declining over the past few months," he said. "Whilst Conergy is a small and relatively new company, we hope that by participating in this scheme it will consolidate and grow its presence here in Queensland. "I acknowledge that there may be some risks in going forward with a company of this size however it needs to be appreciated that the large suppliers have to date not chosen to participate in our scheme."

He said as a result, the initial rate of installation for the solar systems would be slow. "The rate of installations will ramp up as we enter into standing offer arrangements with more suppliers, so initially it will be a slow start," he said. The comments came after the first solar hot water system was installed on a north Brisbane home yesterday, more than three months after the cut-price systems were expected to begin. The solar scheme was expected to begin the first installations from July this year, but was pushed back after the Federal Government slashed its rebate for heat pumps from $1600 to $1000. The program is reliant on the Federal solar rebate to help reduce the cost. Yesterday the Environment and Resource Committee met to review the state's climate change initiatives, and the impacts of carbon trading schemes. Building Codes Queensland director Glen Brumby said Queensland should be leading or at least at pace with climate change policy across Australia.

Greener energy needs billions in funding

Adelaide Advertiser
Friday 9/10/2009 Page: 26

AUSTRALIA needs to invest billions of dollars in renewable energy, including nuclear energy, if it is to help mitigate climate change and eradicate energy poverty, a leading global energy lawyer says. Delivering the second UCL Santos International Lecture in Adelaide, University College London chair of international law Professor Catherine Redgwell said that on present trends, global energy demand would rise 53% by 2030 and carbon dioxide emissions would rise by 55% in the same period.

"The only certainty of our carbon-constrained future is that we will need to invest significantly in developing different sources of energy over the next 20 years as we face up to the twin challenges of mitigating climate change and eradicating energy poverty," she said. "We still have the ultimate challenge that 2.6 billion people - over a third of the world's population - remain dependent on wood, charcoal and animal dung for their daily cooking and heating." Professor Redgwell said Australia was highly reliant on the fossil fuel industry and did not necessarily have to distance itself completely from it. "The investment could be in carbon capture and storage, where carbon dioxide is stored underground," she said.

Adelaide company Santos, who hosted the lecture, had investigated the feasibility of underground carbon dioxide storage in outback SA but shelved plans in March. Professor Redgwell identified nuclear energy as an option for Australia. "That choice is made domestically and politically and it's a matter for each state," she said. "There are real questions over proliferation and storage of waste but it's an option." Professor Redgwell said that as emission reduction targets became more widespread and binding, countries could face legal ramifications if they did not lower emissions.

Industry questions Commission’s CCS shortlist
8 October

The European Commission has proposed a list of six carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects to receive a total of €1.05 billion ($1.6 billion) in funding, but industry representatives are concerned about the lack of transparency involved in the selection procedure. EU leaders agreed in March to reallocate €5 billion of unspent 2008 agricultural funding on stimulating EU business. They decided that €1.05 billion of these funds would be spent on helping to commercialise CCS technology.

The projects that were presented to EU member states experts last week as eligible for funding included: Powerfuel's Hatfield plant in Yorkshire, England; Vattenfall's Jaenschwalde plant in Germany; Endesa's Compostilla plant in Spain; the E.ON-run Maasvlakte plant in the Netherlands; and the Belchatow project in Poland, which is managed by Polska Grupa Energetyczna. If the draft list is approved, these five projects are expected to receive €180 million each. A sixth project, Porto Tolle, run by Enel in Italy, is in line for €100 million.

Eleven projects from across the EU were submitted by the mid-July deadline, but only one project per member state was eligible for funding. In addition to Hatfield, three UK projects had submitted funding applications, namely the Kingsnorth power station run by E.ON in Kent, Tilbury GreenPower's plant in Essex and ScottishPower's Longannet power station in Fife, Scotland. One UK industry source who wished to remain anonymous described the selection process as "really daft". He said: "The projects have been selected by officials in Brussels without a proper tender process."

"The UK projects were sensible choices, but we don't know how they chose the one that won," he added. "They [Brussels] reckon they have chosen the one that will be potentially ready more quickly than the others, but I'm not sure that they have the expertise to decide this. Officials in the UK government were not even consulted."

Commission energy spokesman Ferran Tarradellas said the money would be allocated according to "a very clear list of criteria" and confirmed that the current shortlist was merely the Commission's initial decision. "We have not chosen anything, just transmitted our list to member states based on our assessment," he said. "The process is not finished." Member states now have two weeks to examine the proposal before handing it to the European Parliament for approval. At the end of this process, the Commission will re-examine the candidates before putting forward the final list.