Friday 23 October 2009

Bond Uni wins sustainable design global award

Thursday 22/10/2009 Page: 35

Bond University's Mirvac School of Sustainable Development has won an award as the world's best example of low carbon, sustainable design. The Gold Coast structure, already the first Australian higher education building to receive a six-star Green Star Design rating as a result of reducing carbon emissions by 80%, beat 14 finalists in the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors Award for Sustainability. The field included a Council of Europe building in Strasbourg, the Royal Shakespeare Company's Courtyard Theatre in England's West Midlands and a University of Scotland building that won a separate award last year as the best building in Scotland.

The overall winner was the $70 million St Paul's Cathedral renovation in London. The winners were announced in London last week. Mirvac managing director Nick Collishaw said the Bond University building's win was recognition of Mirvac's commitment to sustainable design. "Our objective was to design a school that would place the students at the forefront of world-leading sustainability, research and initiatives."

Mr Collishaw said Mirvac believed the school provided an environment that would shape tomorrow's leaders in sustainable business operations. Mirvac had 13 staff undertaking sustainable development masters degrees at the school, he said. The building includes design features that increase natural light and minimise energy consumption. Features include photovoltaic cells that generate electricity when exposed to sunlight and an electricity producing wind turbine.

Investors reject coalition's ETS changes

Summaries - Australian Financial Review
Thursday 22/10/2009 Page: 8

A group representing some of the nation's largest investment funds criticised the coalition's package of emissions trading scheme amendments and warned that further protection for big polluting industries would move costs to other sectors of the economy. Yesterday, the Investor Group on Climate Change (IGCC) rejected claims that the government's scheme may hurt secure electricity supplies by forcing the closure of some coal-fired power stations.

Australian Pipeline Industry Association chief executive Cheryl Cartwright says that while long-established industries need time for adjustment, any delay in switching to natural gas for power delays the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Hostilities over the ETS have entered a different phase as the government and the coalition start negotiations on a potential compromise that may see the ETS be passed by the Senate in November. The IGCC represents members such as Colonial First State Global Asset Management, BT Investment Management and AMP Capital Investors and believes there may be a risk of windfall gains to intensive, trade exposed industries. The IGCC says investors such as owners of existing assets and new entrants will not desert the energy market.

Labor backs coal despite climate fears

Summaries - Australian Financial Review
Thursday 22/10/2009 Page: 1

Federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson has defended the domestic and export coal industries, saying Australia needs to take advantage of its rich resource industry to feed the world's growing appetite for energy. Dismissing recent attacks on initiatives to boost coal exports, Mr Ferguson warned that coal was 'a fundamental source of energy' and would remain so for some time. 'There is no way we are walking away from the export of coal, contrary to what some non-government organisations might demand,' he said.

Mr Ferguson spoke to the Australian Financial Review as part of its Future of Energy series, and defended the viability of carbon capture and storage (CCS), the centrepiece of the Rudd government's $2.8 billion investment in clean coal. The International Energy Agency (IEA) believes that growth in global coal demand will be between 60% and minus 22% by 2030, depending on how strong international agreements are in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Santos chief executive David Knox expects Australia's production of liquefied natural gas (LNG) may double within a decade, and that Australia is a significant supplier of 'carbon light' energy to Asia.

Mr Ferguson wants the east coast's emerging coal seam gas industry to fast-track moves to rationalise the sprawling sector to assist in reaching Australia's energy goals, and expects many more billions of dollars to be invested in the LNG industry in Western Australia and the Northern Territory. Mr Ferguson says he has discussed issues with major companies in the sector and pointed to the $43 billion Gorgon project in WA.

According to the Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association (APPEA), there are eight rival LNG projects proposed in Queensland. In a move the Queensland government says may create up to 18,000 jobs, Australian companies including Origin Energy, Santos and Arrow, are looking at moves to export LNG in partnership with ConocoPhillips, Petronas and Royal Dutch Shell. While there are currently only two operating LNG plants, the Woodside Petroleum-operated North West Shelf in WA and ConocoPhillips' Darwin LNG, there are around one dozen proposed around the country.

According to Origin Energy chief executive Grant King, the potential to grow Australia's exports is huge. Woodside Petroleum chief executive Don Voelte says Australia's export prospects are very bright. The IEA believes that world energy demand will grow by 45% between 2006 and 2030. The managing director of coal company Felix Resources Brian Flannery says coal will still be required for existing electricity production and that renewables and gas will 'fill the gap and be expensive'.

Oil evaporates

Daily Telegraph
Thursday 22/10/2009 Page: 9

THE world will have to find four Saudi Arabias by 2030 if it wants to maintain its oil dependency, the International Energy Agency warned yesterday. Dr Fatih Birol, the agency's chief economist, said more must be done to develop alternatives like solar and nuclear.

`Australia should tap solar power'

Thursday 22/10/2009 Page: 4

AUSTRALIA should take the lead in developing solar energy technology as part of the fight against global warming, the International Energy Agency's chief economist says. "We need a major (solar) program, a collective program," the agency's Fatih Birol said. "Australia has a lot of experience. In solar, Australia can also play a role." Speaking from Paris, Dr Birol said "solar energy has a very bright future" along with nuclear energy. He said solar was potentially an easier option because it "enjoys a lot of public acceptance".

Even with large investments in solar and nuclear, Dr Birol said the world would still need oil, but he warned it would not last. "My main motto never changes: the era of low oil prices is over," he said. Australia's solar industry has had a chequered history, with researchers and manufacturers heading overseas over the past 15 years because of a perceived lack of federal government support.

Deal with UniSource unit puts 2nd big project in gear

Arizona's first commercial windfarm made the state the fastest growing in the nation's wind industry in the third quarter of 2009. Arizona has now joined 35 other states with utility-scale wind-power plants. However, it remains near the back of the pack in total energy capacity at 63 MWs (million watts), tied with Hawaii. Texas again gained the largest amount of new capacity, for a total of 8,797 MWs, the American Wind Energy Association said Tuesday in its third-quarter 2009 market report.

Arizona's next big wind project, however, may not be far off. Tucson-based UniSource Energy Corp, announced this week that a subsidiary has agreed to buy power from an integrated wind- and solar energy project planned near Kingman in Mojave County. Western Wind Energy Corp, could get permits within two or three months to build the project on fully zoned land it already owns, said Mike Boyd, a Western representative in Tucson. The project is to be finished by June 2011. Securing a purchase agreement with a major utility is a key test of an alternative energy project's viability.

The agreement with Western Wind is with UniSource Energy Services, which provides electricity to more than 90,000 customers in Santa Cruz and Mohave counties, as well as natural gas to nearly 146,000 customers in Mohave, Yavapai, Coconino, Navajo and Santa Cruz counties. Under the agreement, Western Wind would deliver up to 11 MWs, including at least 300 kWs from photovoltaic solar panels. The rest would come from wind. The agreement calls for UniSource to purchase power from Western Wind Energy's facilities over a 20-year term, in a contract that will be submitted to the Arizona Corporation Commission for review.

Thursday 22 October 2009

Japanese nod for $200m Kemerton silicon boost

West Australian
Wednesday 21/10/2009 Page: 51

Japanese chemicals giant Shin-Etsu has pushed the button on a $200 million expansion of its Kemerton silicon plant in the South-West to turn it into one of the world's biggest producers of the key solar panel ingredient. The group revealed yesterday that its Australian arm, Simcoa, would double the number of furnaces at Kemerton to four between now and 2013 in a two-stage expansion. The first stage, worth about $100 million, will see a third furnace built by 2011 to increase Simcoa's annual capacity to 48,000 tonnes while a fourth furnace slated for the second phase would lift production to 64,000 tonnes and transform the Kemerton smelter into one of the biggest of its kind in the world.

Production at Simcoa's Moora quartz mine would rise in line with the expansion, from 80,000 tonnes to 160,000 tonnes. Simcoa's Bunbury-based vice president, Jim Brosnan, said up to 200 jobs would be created at peak construction, with an extra 40 full time jobs on offer at the company's mining and smelting operations when the upgrade was complete. He said the go-ahead by Shin-Etsu had been a long time coming and would be a boon for the South-West. But Simcoa faced a challenge in competing for skilled labour with a number of other big WA resource projects also coming on stream. "It's very exciting for the South- West (but) I suppose the concern is that with so many other projects going, I just hope we can find the labour and costs don't blow out through the roof," Mr Brosnan said.

The final sign-off from Shin-Etsu comes almost one year after the plan was first formally mooted. Mr Brosnan said the global financial crisis had caused Simcoa's Japanese parents to take a more cautious approach. However, significant demand was starting to re-emerge in the silicon industry, prompting the go-ahead. He said the expansion was primarily being driven by the photovoltaic - or solar cell - industry, which has been spurred on by billions of dollars of government funding worldwide as authorities grappled with climate change.

"There's huge demand worldwide now for silicon for photovoltaic and that's really the main driver," he said. "For every tonne of high purity silicon you need two tonnes of conventional silicon. "In the short term Europe is definitely the driver and Germany and Spain have probably been the leaders." As one of the biggest users of electricity from the South-West grid, Simcoa has been keenly watching progress of the Federal Government's proposed emissions trading scheme. Mr Brosnan said that although the company would incur a cost under an ETS, the arrangements as proposed would not "kill the project".

Reward farmers who fight climate change - scientists

Sydney Morning Herald
Tuesday 20/10/2009 Page: 2

PAYING farmers and investors to preserve native forests, plant vast areas of trees, stop land clearing and improve soil could help Australia make big cuts to its greenhouse gas emissions and boost the chances of threatened native animals and plants, a group of leading Australian scientists argues.

A report by the Wentworth Group is calling on the Rudd Government to expand its emissions trading scheme to include more so-called "green carbon", allowing forests and agriculture to play a greater role in cutting greenhouse emissions. It also wants the Rudd Government to promote the ideas at the Copenhagen climate talks in December along with a voluntary green carbon trade in developing countries.

World efforts to combat dangerous climate change will not succeed, the report argues, by cutting emissions from industry and households alone. Countries like Australia will need to use the landscape to absorb emissions already in the atmosphere by storing carbon in new forests, grasslands, farms and enriched soils. The Opposition has called for agriculture to be excluded from the emissions trading scheme but the report argues that if there was a price for "green carbon", farmers and regional communities could reap financial benefits from the emissions trading scheme.

Split looms over gas company bid

Summaries - Australian Financial Review
Tuesday 20/10/2009 Page: 45

Investors of landfill gas firm Energy Developments including New Zealand infrastructure investment fund Infratil and BT Investment Management may split on whether to accept a bid that values it at $2.65 per share, offered by private equity firm Pacific Equity Partners.

The bid contrasts with the $2.80 offer from Archer Capital in August, which was rejected by the board. Portfolio manager Paul Hannan at BT Investments said the stock 'is worth a lot more than $2.65'. Since June, ED has been considering offloading the assets; there were rumours that ED was in talks with UK private equity fund 3i on the deal. In June, Infratil said it granted a call option to Archer Capital to sell off a part of its 32% holding, that contains 19.99%. Investors Mutual has 13.4% holding.

The federal government revealed that it would take into account of energy from the company's portfolio of landfill and coal gas towards its 20% renewable energy target and aid companies, including ED, to shift from state schemes in a bid to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Premier's vision of green industry magnet

Hobart Mercury
Tuesday 20/10/2009 Page: 10

PREMIER David Bartlett has unveiled plans for Tasmania to double the number and size of its wind farms and to become an island known around the world for its renewable energy generation. The Government is also considering building a second $1 billion-plus Basslink power cable across Bass Strait in the decade ahead and to encourage investors in wind, solar, geothermal and wave power with incentives. Crucial issues to be dealt with include whether to allow private companies to build and operate wind and solar farms to sell electricity into the grid in competition with monopoly government-owned power generator Hydro Tasmania.

Mr Bartlett said lie wants to look at the issue of paying private generators attractive "feed-in" tariffs for power produced, which would also be paid to home owners generating excess solar energy. "If we are truly to stamp ourselves on the imagination of the world as a renewable energy [island], we need to be thinking 10 to 20 years down the track," Mr Bartlett said. "So while Basslink 2 is not seriously on the drawing board, if we are going to double our renewable energy contribution to the world we need a way of selling that power."

Mr Bartlett envisages Tasmania's economy becoming centred on the sale of premium "green" power interstate and to new hi-tech industries drawn to Tasmania because of the availability of renewable electricity. He told the Mercury yesterday that the Government is already pushing to attract international "server farms" and mega-data centres to Tasmania He described these massive electronic and computer centres, storing data for corporations such as Google, the Commonwealth Bank. BHP Billiton or foreign governments, as akin to telephone call centres of the 1990s.

Many international companies are currently searching the globe for multiple safe, stable places to store their digital data, so as to spread the risk of irreplaceable files being destroyed through terrorism, accidents, fires or earthquakes. Tasmania is considered an ideal location - once it has ultra-high speed optical fibre cables connections to the outside world through the National Broadband network - because it is quiet, remote, politically and geographical stable, has a low terrorism risk and an English speaking, educated population.

Some high-profile companies and brands also want to be able to tell their customers their data storage and retrieval centres - which use large amounts of power - are not contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. Out of the optic fibre rollout, data farming is one of the great opportunities," Mr Bartlett explained. "What it does is take our very successful call centre strategy and move it a notch up the food chain - which is good because the skills that are required are greater, and they are higher paid jobs." Mr Bartlett said there is also an opportunity for local companies to be established offering aggregated data centres and data space for companies to buy. He said the State Government could conceivably run such a centre or offer its own data to be stored in a private facility as the "lead tenant" to help encourage such entrepreneurs.

Other ideas being considered by Mr Bartlett include:
  • More wind farms across western and northern Tasmania, with Robbins Islandland in the North-West a top priority.
  • Locating data centres and new industries wanting to use green power next to new wind farms, as data transmission costs less than power transmission.
  • Broadening the number of companies searching and researching geothermal power options in Tasmania.
  • Encouraging the University of Tasmania to partly move to the Hobart waterfront rail yards site, with senior secondary polytechnic and academy campuses co-located alongside.

Many of the Premier's ideas for a new Tasmania are based on discussions with his mentor and close friend Professor Jonathan West, director of the Hobart-based Australian Innovation Research Centre. Professor West will today present his report to Mr Bartlett detailing his own "innovations strategy" for Tasmania, described as a "a new vision for economic development". Central to his proposal is understood to be a call to expand Tasmania's current $400 million irrigation expansion plans to a massive $2 billion irrigation infrastructure spend, creating the state as Australia's future food bowl.

Energy Developments rejects $415m offer

Tuesday 20/10/2009 Page: 22

Energy Developments has received but rejected a $415 million takeover offer from private equity group Pacific Equity Partners, claiming it undervalues the company. It also said it ended talks with an international infrastructure specialist fund manager, which had offered to buy the group's landfill gas-power generation interests in France and Britain, after terms couldn't be agreed. The clean energy group, which generates power from landfills and coalmine methane, has now knocked back three separate deals for either the whole company or some of its assets in the past two months.

In August, it terminated discussions with private equity firm Archer Capital, which had made an indicative offer of $2.80 a share, citing the potential financial upside from Australia's mandatory renewable energy target and "unresolved conditionality" of Archer's offer for rejecting the proposal. Pacific Equity Partners is offering $2.65 a share. "The board considers that the (Pacific Equity Partners) proposal represents inadequate consideration for the long-term intrinsic value of the company," it said in a statement.

Despite knocking back so many deals, investors reacted positively to yesterday's news, pushing Energy Developments' shares up 4.6% to $2.52. The number of offers indicates there is a wide range of interest in the company, with suitors prepared to pay above its current share price, and that Energy Developments' board is confident it can get a better offer, or achieve more on its own.

Energy Developments said its share-price performance over recent months isn't an accurate reflection of the underlying value of its assets, with liquidity being constrained as 80% of the stock is held by its top 10 shareholders. It has hired an independent expert to assess whether Pacific Equity Partners' bid is fair and reasonable. The Brisbane company has a portfolio of power stations in Australia, the US, Europe and Britain, which draw from fuel sources including landfill gas, waste coal-mine gas, natural gas and liquefied natural gas.

Renew Blue Inc. Announces Licensing Agreement With Texas Natural Resources
Oct 20, 2009

HOUSTON, Oct. 20 Ocean water and waves off the coast of Freeport, Texas, will soon produce fresh, desalinated drinking water - 100% fossil fuel-free - through new infrastructure owned, operated and funded by Texas Natural Resources LLC (TNR), the first licensee of INRI(R) SEADOG(R) Pump system.

TNR, based in Houston, is building the renewable fuel infrastructure that will not only produce clean drinking water from ocean water, but will eventually generate energy from waves for municipalities, commercial business and other local entities. The company has obtained licensing rights for the SEADOG(R) Pump technology from Texas-based Renew Blue Inc. (RBI).

Recently, RBI received the first-ever state off-shore wave energy lease from the Texas General Land Office. Manufacturing has already started on the off-shore wave powered platform that will be about 1 mile off the coast of Freeport. The platform is expected to be installed in the fourth quarter of 2009 or the first quarter of 2010. RBI, a wholly owned subsidiary of Minneapolis-based Independent Natural Resources Inc. (INRI(R)), is the first licensing entity of SEADOG(R) Pump, a technology that harnesses the power of ocean waves to generate electricity. The SEADOG(R) Pump separates itself from other technologies on the market by using a simple pump design with few moving parts and no electronics. Eighteen pumps will be used in this initial project to power the platform and desalination equipment.

Initially, the water from this first project will be bottled and distributed on a limited basis under the brand Renew Blue(TM) using bottles made of compostable, corn-based plastic. However, the greater goal of the SEADOG(R) Pump field is to demonstrate what the technology can do in providing electricity and clean water at a municipal level to regions all over the world that lack fresh water and energy but have an abundance of ocean waves along their coastline.

Through the licensing rights obtained from RBI, TNR will desalinate 3,000 gallons of water per day and will store up to 30,000 gallons in a sealed, stainless steel tank before being transported to the bottling plant. Municipal SEADOG(R) Pump systems will be designed to desalinate millions of gallons of fresh water per day. While traditional desalination typically requires significant amounts of electricity, the SEADOG(R) Pump platform system is powered solely by the wave energy it harnesses. Considering that 40 to 50% of operating costs in the desalination process is attributed to electric usage, the SEADOG(R) Pump system provides significant cost savings and minimal environmental impact compared to the large-scale use of power generated by fossil fuels. Further environmental benefits accrue from the superior manner in which brine water is disbursed. "We've been working on perfecting the SEADOG(R) technology for the past seven years and TNR is now launching the first commercial wave power generation in the U.S.," said Mark A. Thomas, CEO, INRI(R).

SEADOG® Technology
Generally speaking, wave energy is captured by engineered devices or components attached to stationary or floating structures that are set in motion by waves or swells on the surface of the ocean. Most wave energy technologies grow in cost because the equipment is sensitive to corrosive seawater and has intermittency issues similar to wind and solar energy. SEADOG(R) Pump, on the other hand, separates itself from other technologies on the market by using a simple pump design with few moving parts and no electronics. Multiple pumps are deployed in fields depending on how much power or water is desired.

In appropriate geographic locations, SEADOG(R) Pump can move large volumes of water to shore where it can be stored at elevation until needed for energy production. This ability to store energy removes the intermittency issues associated with other renewable energy technologies. Preliminary estimates based on results from the sea trial suggest that a 1-square-mile field of SEADOG(R) Pumps could generate anywhere from 30 MWs to more than 1,500 MWs of electricity on average. The amount of electricity generated is dependent on how small or large the waves are in any given area of the world.

About Texas Natural Resources LLC
Texas Natural Resources (TNR), based out of Houston, was launched in 2009 to provide management, ownership and development for new renewably fueled infrastructure technologies targeted at creating energy and desalinating water for municipalities, commercial businesses and other local entities. TNR is the initial licensee of SEADOG(R) Pump technology.

About Renew Blue Inc.
Renew Blue Inc. (RBI), a Texas Corporation, was formed in 2008 as a wholly owned subsidiary of Minneapolis-based Independent Natural Resources Inc. (INRI(R)). RBI is the first licensing entity of the INRI(R) SEADOG(R) Pump, a technology that captures energy from ocean waves. RBI is also the owner and licensor of the Renew Blue(TM) brand of water, the world's first 100% fossil-fuel-free, desalinated drinking water produced by harnessing the power of ocean waves. For more information please visit

Canada's Largest Solar Farm Opens in Ontario
Oct 19, 2009

Canada's largest solar farm is now producing power in the township of Stone Mills, near Napanee - paving the way for Ontario to become a solar energy leader in North America. This new green energy supply will help support Ontario's elimination of dirty, coal-fired generation, which is Canada's single largest climate change initiative. With two more large solar projects expected to come on line by the end of 2009, Ontario will join the elite ranks of North America's leaders in installed solar capacity.

First Light Solar Park - currently the largest-scale commercial solar farm operation in Canada - is a joint venture between SkyPower Corp, and SunEdison Canada. With more than 126,000 solar panels spanning across 90 acres, this farm is expected to generate more than 10 million kW hours (kWh) of renewable electricity in its first year - - enough to power 10,000 households. Since October 2003, Ontario has added more than 1,200 MWs of new, renewable generation, including more than 150 solar projects of varying sizes, including residential systems and small arrays on commercial buildings, institutions and schools.

"Ontario is proud of this milestone project and we look forward to more solar success stories because of the Green Energy Act. We are committed to getting more green energy online and bringing more green collar jobs to communities across the province," said George Smitherman, Deputy Premier and Minister of Energy and Infrastructure.

"We are grateful for the support of the Government of Ontario, the local community, the Ontario Power Authority and Hydro One, which have all helped make First Light a reality. Working together, we have developed a progressive model for the delivery of clean, renewable energy in Ontario and look forward to many more exciting projects like this," said Kerry Adler, Chief Executive Officer of SkyPower.

Quick Facts
  • First Light employed more than 100 people during construction. The facility has a 20-year contract with the Ontario Power Authority for 9 MWs of capacity.
  • The First Light facility is using inverters supplied by Burlington, Ontario-based SatCon.
  • If projects come online as expected, Ontario is on pace to increase its solar capacity nearly 25-fold in the last four months of this year alone.

Wednesday 21 October 2009

True toll still to be uncovered

Canberra Times
Monday 19/10/2009 Page: 15

Discovering and attributing all of the health-related consequences of climate change will become easier in time, Tony McMichael writes

As governments haggle over emissions targets, timetables, trading, taxes and technical fixes, the Nero-fiddling-while-Rome-burns analogy looms ever larger. Meanwhile, human-induced climate change proceeds faster than before. Scientists met this month in Oxford to discuss what it would mean to live in a plus-four-degrees world. That's way beyond the assessed "safe" temperature limit.

A decade ago we would not have seriously foreseen such a world - one which, on the temperature scale, would take its nearly half way back to the late dinosaur era. The widely supported judgment from matey scientific disciplines is that a two degree increase represents "danger" territory. Current trends, plus the recent actual and latent warming, now suggest we will easily exceed a two-degree rise.

Nero presumably knew the impact of the great urban conflagration. We, however, have not yet comprehended the full consequences of climate change. We worry about impacts on GDP growth, property safety, job security, and iconic species. Those legitimate and important worries fall well short of understanding what is ultimately at stake.

We are playing for much higher stakes. Over aeons, natural changes in the planet's climate have driven great shifts in the conditions of life on Earth. Today, remarkably, we are the change-makers. And, as we weaken and disrupt the natural world's life-support systems and ecological processes, the risks to human well-being, health and survival escalate.

Yet, during most of this great modern discourse, the formal health sector has been a marginal participant. This, despite the fact that the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (1992) states explicitly that the prime reason for averting "dangerous interference with the climate system" is to avoid serious damage to the environment, economic development and population health.

During this past year, the World Health Organisation, some regional development banks, enlightened national governmental development-aid agencies (like Denmark and Britain) and various health professional bodies have engaged more actively. They must still contend, though, with the prevailing popular misunderstanding of what determines health and disease. That popular view confuses the role of individual responsibility for personal health with the fundamental long-term dependence of the population's health on sustainable life-support from nature.

We readily apply whole population thinking to the health of livestock: the herd needs feed, water infection-free surroundings, and shelter from extremes. However, for our species, in modern urban settings, we assume that good health comes from individuals choosing sensibly in the supermarket, not smoking, wearing seat-belts, inheriting good genes, and having personal access to medical care.

Yes, those individual-level factors largely determine who among us gets sick. But the much bigger issue is to understand what limits the overall health of the population. Those limits are set by the conditions of the wider natural environment. And that is what is now being threatened. The risks to human health from climate change are many and great.

Our collective actions are jeopardising the foundations of population health: food yields, fresh water supplies, natural constraints on infectious disease agents, protection against extreme weather events, relative climatic stability, and social stability. Such systemic changes contributed historically to the decline of many regional societies, accompanied by undernutrition, starvation, epidemic outbreaks and conflict.

The Global Humanitarian Forum, chaired by Kofi Annan, estimates that at least 300,000 additional deaths now occur annually from several climate-related health impacts: under-nutrition, malaria, diarrhoeal diseases and flooding. Nearly all those deaths occur in poor and vulnerable countries. (Australia's past cumulative emissions account for about 2% of current human-induced warming - or 6000 of those deaths each year.) The complexity of human culture limits the exact study and quantification of most Health impacts of climate change.

When sea ice melts, the cause is clear. When, along with climatic changes, birds nest earlier and insects change their migration patterns, then it's pretty clearly due to climate. In humans, though, as the annual death toll from heat waves edges upwards with rising frequency of very hot days, might it be due to population ageing and the spread of dense heat-trapping suburbs? As malaria edges upwards on the warming eastern African slopes, is it due to changes in land use, people movement or mosquito spraying? Attributable impacts on health will, regrettably, become clearer as climate change progresses.

Meanwhile, much of the difficulty in attributing and quantifying those impacts reflects the inherent complexity of these systemic environmental changes. Counting road-deaths due to speeding is much easier than counting cases of undernutrition due to climate change in Africa, or climate related mental health problems in Australian rural communities undergoing warming, drying and declining production.

The systemic nature of climate change, as a fundamental long-term threat to the health of whole communities, mast be understood. This is more than an inconvenient truth; the risk to health from the disruption of physical and ecological processes is the real "bottom line" indicator of the dangers posed by climate change.

Tony McMichael, a National Health and Medical Research Council Australia Fellow at the Australian National University, has contributed to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, advises the World Health Organisation on climate change and health, and is a board member of The Climate Institute Australia.

From Darwin to Cambridge, the anniversaries mount up - Historic solar run beckons

Sunday Territorian
Sunday 18/10/2009 Page: 18

THE solar car race across the continent from Darwin to Adelaide has always attracted worldwide attention. But the line-up of anniversaries and historic references imbedded in the timing and the make up of participating teams of next Sunday's event will have historians paying as much attention as the solar industry lobby. First off, we have the Darwin connection.

Although the famous naturalist never visited, the HMS Beagle, the ship that carried him to the Galapagos Islands, did cruise into the bay 170 years ago. That is where we got the Darwin moniker from. The Beagle's skipper, Lieutenant John Stokes named Port Darwin after the ship's most well-known passenger and his personal friend, Charles Darwin. And Charles Darwin is one of the more famous graduates of the UK's Cambridge University, which just happens to have been founded 800 years ago.

So what do the alumni do to celebrate the 800th anniversary of one of the world's venerable institutions of learning? Especially as this year is also the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth in 1809, and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his controversial work, The Origin Energy of Species.

In the case of aerospace engineering graduate Anthony Law and 15 fellow past and present students of Cambridge, you knock up a solar car, christen it Endeavour and bring it to Darwin. It is a kind of "modern as tomorrow" way of celebrating some ancient history, Anthony and his fellow graduates explained over refreshments at The Coffee Club in Mitchell Street, the team's social headquarters in Darwin. But apart from the historic links between the University, the naturalist and Darwin City, there is some good old academic rivalry behind the Endeavour's solar challenge.

One of the Cambridge crew, Martin McBrien, did his post-graduate engineering studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US. Teams from MIT have been involved in the Darwin to Adelaide Solar Car Challenge almost since its inception more than two decades ago. And of course, the weird combination of associations and anniversaries with this 2009 race cut in again. MIT is in the village of Cambridge, just outside Boston.

The idea of the Old World Cambridge competing against the New World Cambridge's MIT in a space-age race across the even newer world nation of Australia was irresistible. When engineer McBrien returned to the UK version of Cambridge just over 12 months ago, he fired up his former classmates to research and build a solar car for the 3000km challenge, starting from Darwin next Sunday. More than 40 solar cars will be competing against the British and American rivals, from China, Turkey, India, Canada, the Netherlands, Brazil and the Nordic countries.

And of course the hometown favourite will be the Desert Rose, the entry from the students at Charles Darwin University. As CDU's Professor Dean Patterson told the ABC's World Today program earlier this month, the Rose has race form, both for speed and trouble. Last year, it led a major solar car challenge in a crowded field in tech-savvy Japan when it overheated and caught fire, costing the Territory team an irredeemable 90 minutes in a tight race.

But Professor Patterson is optimistic about the performance of the Desert Rose next Sunday. "We have some very new stuff in the vehicle right now - some really sophisticated new stuff," he told the ABC's Heather Hewitt. The strong international field that will cross the starting line next Sunday is in the best traditions of the solar challenge.

The race is the brainchild of Hans Tholstrup, a Danish adventurer who gave up the family's business legacy of a European energy empire founded on LNG, and another one based on the fermentation of Danish blue cheese. He came to Australia to prospect for gold, and wound up in the Top End as a buffalo shooter. Despite the Tholstrup family's involvement in the LNG industry, Hans had a fixation about the finite nature of all fossil fuels. The oil crisis of 1973 made him an early believer in the virtue of renewable energy.

He took time off from buffalo shooting to lobby Paul Everingham, the Chief Minister in the Territory's first elected government, to establish the transcontinental solar car race. In the late 1970s the idea seemed preposterous. But Hans Tholstrup was adventurous and had an impressive array of international contacts, and Everingham was game. With NT Government and local industry sponsorship, the first solar car race headed out from Darwin for Adelaide in 1981.

In the decades following 1859, Charles Darwin was at the centre of raging controversies about the creation theory, which formed the basis of most Christian religions, and what the collective priesthood took as the heresy of his evolutionary heresies. His first major work, On the Origin Energy of Species by Natural Selection, saw the rise of anti-Darwin forms of religion, and anti-religious forms of Darwinism. There is delicious irony in the links between the controversial naturalist, the Cambridge University solar team, Darwin City and renewable energy.

In its own way, Darwin has been at the forefront of the energy evolution since its post-war reconstruction. As far back as the 1970s, every house in Darwin had a solar hot water system on its roof. In the southern states, they are only now talking about such schemes as part of the doctrine of the planet's newest religion, the Cult of Climate Change. For decades, the Territory has been a major player in the evolution of the energy industry. We supply uranium oxide to fuel the greenhouse gas-free generation of electricity across the globe.

What an appropriate place for 40 solar cars to be flagged off, with some at least aiming to power their way across the continent by generating enough electricity from the sun to run a hair dryer!

Major wave energy initiative announced
October 19 2009

Eamon Ryan TD has announced that Swedish electricity company Vattenfall has selected Ireland for an exciting initiative to develop ocean wave energy into a viable, clean and valuable new energy source. Tonn Energy, a joint venture between Vattenfall and Wavebob has been formed to carry out this programme of work. In the long term this move could position Ireland as a net exporter of green energy, utilising its massive natural ocean wave resource, and could hold significant benefits for the West of the country through subsequent investment and employment.

Tonn Energy is among the first commercial wave power development companies in Ireland. It combines the major backing and expertise of one of Europe's large power utilities, Vattenfall, with innovative wave energy conversion technology company, Wavebob. Work will now begin on the planning, installation, operation and maintenance of pre-commercial devices at the national wave energy test site at Belmullet, Mayo. Success there would enable Tonn Energy to consider future plans to achieve 250MW of generating capacity elsewhere around Ireland, which would represent half of the Government's published targets for 2020.

Minister Ryan who joined with Harvey Appelbe, Project Director for Tonn Energy, in making the announcement, said "I have articulated my intention that Ireland should become a world leader in renewable energy. We have unparalleled ocean resources." "The aim of this Government's Ocean Energy Strategy is to position Ireland at the fore-front in the development of full-scale, commercially viable ocean wave energy generating facilities." "The participation of a major power utility like Vattenfall, together with the commitment of its Irish partners – which I applaud - in Ireland's energy programme, marks a further step toward realising the considerable opportunities represented by our ocean wave energy resource."

Vattenfall, a Swedish public limited company, generates, distributes and sells electricity and heat to customers throughout Europe. It is one of Europe's largest electrical utilities generating 160TWh and consolidated sales in 2008 of approximately €17 billion. Operations today are conducted in Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Poland, The Netherlands, UK and now Ireland.

Wavebob is an indigenous Irish technology firm, founded in 1999 and holding international patents for wave energy conversion technology. Wavebob has produced the first Irish device and one of only a handful worldwide to have successfully harnessed the energy of the ocean waves. The prototype of 'Wavebob' was installed on the Marine Institute's test site at Spiddle, Co.Galway in March 2006. It was the first device to produce electricity in Irish waters, achieving 3000 hours of operation.

Market awaits birth of geothermal giant
October 19, 2009

THE geothermal industry is becoming frustrated that amid renewed talk of nuclear being the only emissions-free baseload option for Australia, the opportunity to prove its own credentials has been stalled by a lack of funding. Australia is estimated to have a geothermal resource that could provide 20,000 times its annual energy needs, at relatively low cost, but the country now accounts for less than 1 MW of the world's current capacity of 10,000MW, which comes mostly from volcanic sources.

Australia's resources lie in more challenging deep aquifers, and the even deeper and more experimental hot rocks. Despite this, the industry believes up to 2000MW of capacity could be installed by 2020, but progress has been slowed by the impact of the global financial crisis, drip-feed funding from governments, and, more importantly, the lack of drilling rigs. A well blow-out that has caused lengthy delays at the most-advanced project owned by GeoDynamics has also clouded the future of the hot-rock technology.

However, the hydrothermal developers say hot aquifers are not nearly as complicated as hot rocks. Birdsville has been partly powered by one such aquifer since 1992, and Greenearth Energy last week released a report highlighting the fact that hydrothermal plants of 70MW to 120MW had been operating in the US for the past 20 years and in Europe for the past decade.

Greenearth Energy believes it could deliver energy from the first stage of its planned 140MW project near Geelong within three years of starting to drill. Panax Geothermal sees an even shorter time frame for its project on the Limestone Coast in South Australia. However, neither company can move forward because they are in a queue to use the one suitable and available drilling rig in Australia, currently being used at Petratherm's Parlana hot-rock project, which is several months behind schedule.

The investment community has largely snubbed geothermal in the past 18 months, but activity in some stocks in recent weeks suggests a return of interest. That will be tested before Christmas when New World Energy seeks to raise $10million in the first geothermal IPO for nearly two years. New World has geothermal licences around the Perth Basin and hopes to finalise similar licences in the Pilbara, where it sees opportunities for large-scale geothermal developments to support, at a competitive price, the massive iron ore and LNG developments. "(Once) you drill a successful proof of concept, that will cascade the market," says Greenearth Energy chief executive Mark Miller.

Morgan Stanley analysts issued a report this month noting that there were already 10 listed entities pursuing geothermal energy opportunities in Australia. All are relative minnows, but could be sharing up to $4billion in annual revenue by 2020. "From somewhere on the list of tiny companies in this space, we expect a giant to emerge," Morgan Stanley said.

Ready to ride the next wave
AUSTRALIA'S first commercial-scale wave-energy plant - - and the world's largest - - is to be located at Garden Island, 50km south of Perth. The first unit of Carnegie Corporation Energy's 5MW plant will be installed next year, with construction of 25-30 units complete by 2011.

The technology, invented by Australians, comprises a series of underwater buoys that use wave energy to drive pump units tethered to the seabed. High-pressure water is then used to drive hydro-electric turbines for emissions-free energy. The $50m project will be support by a $12.5m grant from the West Australian government, and Carnegie Corporation hopes it will be followed by a 50MW plant should its application for funding under the federal government's Renewable Energy Demonstration Program be successful.

Although capital costs for the initial project are high - - about $10m per MW - - this is expected to come down to between $6m and $7m for the second project, and will fall further in subsequent projects. "By project three, four or five it will be a cost-competitive technology," Carnegie Corporation chief executive Michael Ottaviano says. "We reckon that we will be cheaper than wind." It will certainly be cheaper than diesel, which is why Carnegie Corporation has also been asked to conduct a feasibility study for a wave-energy facility to power a naval base near Exmouth, north of Perth.

The base is currently off-grid and powered by diesel. Ottaviano says such island locations should be a prime market for the technology, although he also insists it has the potential to provide energy on a large scale. Ottaviano says that, like geothermal and solar thermal, wave energy's up-front capital costs are likely to be higher than wind, but its reliability will make it a cheaper source overall.

Carnegie Corporation's second project is likely to be in South Australia or Victoria, because its funding deal with Investec requires it to be located near the national grid. Carnegie Corporation is one of several ocean-energy groups competing for funds under the REDP - - expected to be announced soon - - with the losing bidders expected to seek opportunities overseas. Ottaviano says Garden Island was chosen over rival sites such as Albany because it was close to the pilot plant at Fremantle, and could sell energy into the local grid or to the neighbouring naval base.

Waste proves the way to go
INTERNATIONAL waste-to-energy specialist Global NRG Energy is to announce a major program to generate energy in Australia from wheat stalk waste, in its first major foray into this country. Global NRG Energy has extensive operations across the globe converting municipal solid waste, sewage, wood wastes and a whole range of crop wastes into energy. This is mostly done by transforming it into high-value energy pellets which are then used to create heat for use in the generation of energy, gasification or industrial heating.

Chief executive Mike Bartlett estimates that harnessing just over a quarter of the various wastes in Australia could generate 15 per cent of the country's total electricity needs. He says there is more than 16million tonnes of wheat straw waste each year that could be used to create energy pellets and that wheat straw has a calorific value higher than brown coal. Bartlett also says Australia is particularly suited to the technology because it makes no sense to transport waste over long distances to central processing plants. Instead, he proposes rural and regional communities could install small-scale pelletising units, which could generate supply for export or for sale for local power generation.

Army ready to develop its largest-ever renewables project
October 16, 2009

As the result of a memorandum of understanding signed this week, Acciona Solar Power and the Clark Energy Group will develop a large-scale solar energy project--the first phase, consisting of five sites that total 500MW--at Fort Irwin in California's Mojave Desert. The base is the U.S. Army's largest training ground and also houses NASA's Goldstone Deep Space Communications center. The project will involve concentrating solar energy (CSP) and photovoltaic technology, and is the U.S. Department of Defense's (DoD) largest-ever solar project. To date, the 14MW solar plant at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada and the 2MW installation at Fort Carson, Colorado are the DoD's largest solar energy generating plants.

A federal mandate requires the U.S. Army to reduce its energy consumption by 30% by 2015 (compared to 2003) and to cover 25% of its energy needs with renewable energies by 2025. The Fort Irwin project is part of the Army's "Enhanced Use Leasing" (EUL) program, designed to allow private sector entities "to acquire and leverage value from under-utilised non-excess real estate assets on Army and select Department of Defense Installations."?

Acciona Solar Power and Clark Energy Group's joint-project will develop approximately 500MW of solar energy, which could be increased in the future to 1,000MW. The five sites total 5,600 hectares, and are expected to produce approximately 1,000GWh annually, far exceeding Fort Irwin's 35MW peak load. "Quite frankly, the Department of Defense was a little bit late coming to the topic of efficiency and renewables, but now it's at the forefront," said Richard Kidd, a high-ranking official at the U.S. Department of Energy, in a recent statement to the New York Times.

The project is at an initial stage and studies are being carried out to identify the most suitable and efficient technological solutions. Construction will be staggered in several phases: by 2014, the first site development should be sufficiently advanced to cover Fort Irwin's total energy needs. In accordance with EUL requirements, the project will be financed and developed by both companies (costs are expected to come to approximately $2 billion ), who will deliver services such as operation and maintenance in exchange for the lease of military land holdings. Any excess electricity produced can be sold to the grid, via two high-power transmission lines in the vicinity of Fort Irwin.

Australian Navy scopes out wave energy potential
16 Oct 2009

Carnegie Corporation Energy unveils plans for Australia's first commercial-scale wave farm and reveals it is to work with Navy on west coast projects.

Australia may have finally found a use for its huge wave energy resources besides surfing. Carnegie Corporation Energy has announced it is to build the country's first commercial-scale wave energy plant after deciding on a location adjacent to a naval base south of Perth, on the country's west coast. Carnegie Corporation will install the first of its underwater units at Garden Island next year, and will install another 25 to 30 such units to take the installed capacity to 5MW, making the development the largest wave energy plant in the world, according to chief executive Michael Ottaviano.

The A$50m (£28.03m) project is being supported by a A$12.5m grant from the Western Australia state government, but Carnegie Corporation has hopes to build larger facilities along the wave-rich southern coast of Australia in coming years. However, those developments will depend on further government support, with an application for funding to help a proposed 50MW development expected to be announced soon. Carnegie Corporation also announced on Friday that it had also been asked to conduct a feasibility study to provide energy to another naval base near Exmouth, about 1,000km to the north. The base is located on an island and is off-grid, currently relying on expensive diesel generators for energy.

Ottaviano said off-grid island locations with good wave resources represent a potentially lucrative market for the company. The company's CETO technology involves a series of six-metre-high underwater buoys tethered to pump units on the sea bed. High pressure water is then delivered to conventional hydro-electric turbines on shore. Ottaviano said the capital costs of the initial project will be high – about A$10m per MW, but he predicted they will come down by around 30 per cent for larger projects before falling further as the company expands. He added that in the long term he expects the technology to be fully competitive with wind energy.

Carnegie Corporation currently has a pilot project with a small-scale example of its technology operating at Fremantle. The Garden Island installation will generate its first revenue. Ottaviano also revealed that the company is currently competing with at least two other Australian developers for funding support for another large-scale development project. He said that if the application for funding is not successful the company will look to develop a large-scale project elsewhere, with the UK a possible destination because of its strong incentives for wave energy.

Tuesday 20 October 2009

British Columbia offshore wind project to use European technology
October 15, 2009

A Vancouver company is proposing to build an offshore windfarm in northwestern B.C., using unique marine construction techniques and equipment developed in Europe. NaiKun Wind Energy Group is developing plans for the construction of the NaiKun Offshore Wind Energy Project. The project would be located in the shallow waters northeast of Hecate Strait, between Haida Gwaii (the Queen Charlotte Islands) and Prince Rupert on the B.C, mainland. "On this wind energy project the work is independent and there is a lot of repetition" said Mike O'Connor, president of Naikun. "The turbines are all identical pieces of construction that are interconnected and link to an offshore platform, which is the most sophisticated component on the project."

The project involves the construction of 110 wind turbine generators with a plant capacity of 396 MWs (MW). "The foundation for the turbine, which is very common in Europe, is a giant open-ended steel tube about 4.5 to 5 metres in diameter," said O'Connor. "They are 55-85 mm in thickness, with the thickest section at the seabed, where there are the greatest forces on the piles." Construction of each foundation requires an enormous jack-up vessel, designed to handle high winds and waves. The foundations are transported to the site by barge and received by the vessel, which uses a 440-ton crane and a pile guiding frame to lift them into place.

A 200 to 250 ton pile driver places the piles into the seabed, where the water is a depth of 12 to 20 metres at low tide. "A transition piece, which is 20 metres long, is then slipped on top of the steel pile," said O'Connor. "This piece is the transition form the steel pile foundation to the bottom of the turbine tower. It is in the tidal power portion, so it is specially treated with anti-corrosive paint. Ladders and bumpers are installed through the tidal power zone, so staff can do maintenance." There is a five-metre overlap between the two sections, which is sealed with a special quick-setting high-strength grout.

Once the grout sets, the foundation become one piece. There is a giant flange on the transition piece that meets up with a flange for the installation of the wind turbine tower. The jack-up barge has storage for tower sections, which are lifted into place and secured. The nacelle or hub of the wind turbine generator is lifted about 80 metres above the water to the top of the tower. The blades are lifted vertically attached to the rotor Once this is completed, the jack-up moves to the next location and continues the same operation. This construction process is estimated to take about 1.8 days per foundation including an allowance for weather delays.

Actual working time at each site is expected to last less than one day; with the pile driving itself, taking two to four hours. Foundation installation takes place 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The platform that forms the deck of the offshore converter station will be constructed and installed in the same way. The platform will accommodate the transformers, equipment, maintenance supplies, fuel, waste storage, boat access facilities, and a helicopter pad. It will be built on four or six steel foundations and will be supported by a self-elevating platform.

Polluting plant asks for public buyout

Sydney Morning Herald
Friday 16/10/2009 Page: 6

THE owner of the country's most heavily polluting coal-fired power plant wants the Government to buy it out with public money rather than face the costs of carbon trading. The British company International Power, the owner of Hazelwood power station in Victoria, has revived a plan that was originally submitted to the Climate Change Minister, Penny Wong, last year under which it would receive billions in compensation. Profits from its Australian operations have risen 71% to $212 million, according to its latest earnings report, but the company believes the plants' projected earnings for future decades should be covered.

"When International Power purchased Hazelwood in 1996 it was purchased on the basis of a business life of 40 years," said a spokesman, Trevor Rowe. "The investment was made on that basis - any change to the general terms - and it's not unreasonable to say that the rules have been changed." Asked whether the company foresaw the possibility of having to account for its carbon emissions when it bought the plant, Mr Rowe said: "Absolutely not, not in 1996."

International Power also said in 2004 that it might just close the Hazelwood plant, which releases up to 17 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, rather than have to meet greenhouse gas emissions reductions required by the Victorian Government. Senator Wong said she would not discuss the International Power proposal but that the electricity sector would already receive significant compensation for having to buy permits under the emissions trading scheme. "The Government is continuing to work with a range of industries impacted by the carbon pollution reduction scheme, including the domestic electricity sector.

However, the Government does hold the view that the assistance we have on the table is both appropriate and well targeted." A spokeswoman for Victoria's Energy Minister, Peter Batchelor, said that state government was continuing to work with the Federal Government over the design of its emissions trading scheme. Environment groups greeted the International Power proposal with derision.

A Greenpeace climate campaigner, Simon Roz, said: "When you make bad business decisions that leads to losses, that is the flip side of getting the plant cheap in the first place during privatisation. They haven't planned prudently for an emissions trading scheme - when any decent analyst was warning 10 years ago that some form of carbon trading was already on the horizon."

A submission on the emissions trading scheme prepared by Roam Consulting last December said none of Victoria's existing brown coal power plants would suffer a long-term net revenue loss under a carbon price of $20 a tonne. The modelling showed that while the amount of electricity produced at the Hazelwood plant would fall under the carbon pollution reduction scheme, by 2020 its net profits would rise as electricity prices rose.

Roam's managing director, Dr Ian Rose, said the modelling showed that "generators will continue to be profitable, and energy security will not be threatened by the carbon pollution reduction scheme at that price."

State warned on power cuts ETS could close power stations, cabinet is told

Friday 16/10/2009 Page: 1

VICTORIA could face widespread power disruptions due to the closure of two of its four brown coal power stations in the next decade as Australia reduces its greenhouse gas emissions, according to high-level advice before the State Government. The possibility, one of several scenarios outlined in confidential cabinet documents obtained by The Age, is consistent with a campaign by power generators to win more compensation under the Federal Government's emissions trading scheme. But it is at odds with analysis by federal Treasury and former government adviser Ross Garnaut, and was dismissed as "scaremongering" by energy analysts.

The cabinet documents suggest that the Hazelwood power station - often criticised as Australia's "dirtiest" electricity generator-could close as soon as 2013 under an emissions cut of 5% by 2020. The nearby Yallourn plant could follow in 2018. The two plants account for about 40% of Victoria's power and 30% of its emissions. Elsewhere, the documents consider two possibilities, should either or both stations close before 2015. Under the first, electricity prices would rise sharply to keep the plants running until new gas-fired power stations were built to replace them. The second would see "the lights go out" as Hazelwood and Yallourn either went into receivership, failed because of poor maintenance or shut down because of cash shortage.

Several energy analysts challenged suggestions there would be blackouts, and warned the Government's advice was being influenced by electricity generators' lobbying. "They have got these guys bluffed," one said. Bruce Mountain, director with consultants Carbon Market Economics, said the owners of coal-fired generators had contracts to fulfil, making it unlikely they would leave before replacement generation was ready. "I see no reasons for the lights to go out," he said. The Federal Government is proposing to give Victorian generators $3 billion compensation over the first five years of the scheme. The Opposition is expected to call for more compensation when it releases its amendments next week.

Mr Mountain said Hazelwood had been planned to shut in 2000 before being privatised by the Kennett government. Its possible life has subsequently been extended to 2030. "It is an old plant that has had its life extended many times and it has got an incredibly high emissions footprint." Energy Supply Association of Australia chief executive Brad Page, who wants greater government help for power plant owners, said several economic models had predicted the closure of Victorian power plants before 2020 under a 5% emissions target. He said it was impossible to say if the power supply would be affected, but talk of blackouts was "sensationalising". The documents describe the likely change in the energy system over the next decade. It is estimated the winding down of old technology could cut in half the use of coal-fired power.

As revealed in The Age this week, this would coincide with the development of an export industry, focusing on dried coal to burn in power stations and "coal-to-liquids" projects to create a substitute for oil. The energy shortfall would be made up through an expansion of gas-fired power - a "cleaner" fossil fuel with about 25% of the emissions of burnt brown coal - and by Victoria becoming more reliant on energy imported from other states. There would be a dramatic increase in wind energy. About 1200 turbines would be spread across the state's central and south-west regions, although this would provide only a modest share of the energy load.

Environment Victoria campaigns director Mark Wakeham welcomed the Government's consideration of a future beyond Hazelwood, but said it should not listen to scaremongering. "We need to get on with the job of making the transition." he said. A spokesman for TRUEnergy, which operates the Yallourn station, said the Government's compensation was insufficient and would have an impact on the reliability of supply. Energy and Resources Minister Peter Batchelor said the State Government was continuing to talk to the Federal Government about the final design of the emissions.

Solar school cash gone

Adelaide Advertiser
Friday 16/10/2009 Page: 11

THOUSANDS of schools that want to go green have been told the Federal Government has no money to help them. The Government has shelved a popular program which provided up to $50,000 to schools for solar panels, solar hot-water heaters and water tanks. Any school which had not put in an application by 3pm yesterday has missed out for the next eight months. Environment Minister Peter Garrett put the $480 million program on ice because it had already exhausted funding for this financial year. More than 2000 schools made the cut-off - 2500 must wait. Opposition climate change spokesman Greg Hunt asked why Mr Garrett did not have the "guts" to publicly announce the decision to close the program. Mr Garrett's spokesman said more than 1800 schools had been approved.

Coal and nuclear just hot air, the immediate answer is gas 17, 2009

People are looking for a cleaner energy source, one they can believe in, and enough to keep the lights on and power electric cars and desalination plants by 2050, when Australia's population will be 35 million. Everybody knows clean coal will not cut it, and that is why the only person willing to spend real money on it is the federal Energy Minister, Martin Ferguson. Massive renewable energy is the plain solution to climate change, but it is still beyond reach. So many sensible people, about half the population, according to a Nielsen poll this week, reach for nuclear.

It is just not necessary. At the risk of stating the obvious, gas is the key to making the essential, rapid transition to a completely renewable energy supply. With reserves offshore in Western Australia, South Australia and Victoria, and coal seam gas in Queensland, Australia has gas in abundance. The Premier of Western Australia, Colin Barnett, made a similar point in a recent interview, noting the most frequent comment he got from the big oil companies developing the state's gas fields, was, ''Why are our natural gas resources so undeveloped?''

"Even now, on proven reserves, there is 100 years of gas," Barnett said. "You've really got to think, why doesn't Australia do more with its natural gas?" He decried the "incredibly convoluted" debate we are having about an emissions trading scheme. "I agree an ETS is part of the solution, but surely it is more logical to take direct measures to reduce greenhouse emissions. The simplest direct measure Australia can take is to use natural gas in power generation. "Australia on the east coast has got coal," Barnett said. "It's a powerful industry, a powerful lobby, it's a major part of the economy. I recognise that. But we, in a greater long-term global energy sense, are being naive as a country - and probably seen as being naive. We've got this massive resource that everyone wants and we are not thinking strategically.''

That's putting it mildly. Many would go further. Our first challenge is to build no more coal-fired power stations, whether touted as ''carbon capture and storage-ready'', or not. Like the phrase clean coal, ''CCS-ready'' is industry doublespeak. CCS is 20 years away at commercial scale, even proponents admit. It is nothing like ready. Western Australia at least has avoided this path. On Thursday the state's energy retailer Synergy Energy, after tendering for 638 MWs of generation capacity from 2011, rejected proposals to build new coal-fired power stations including listed the Aviva Corporation's Coolimba coal-fired plant with CCS at Eneabba, between Perth and Geraldton, and Griffin Energy's Bluewaters projects at Collie.

State-owned Verve Energy, which is building two high-efficiency 100MW gas turbines at its Kwinana power station, won the tender instead. Synergy Energy said it was considering windfarm proposals to meet the state's 20 per cent renewable energy target. It has signed agreements with geothermal and wave developers including Carnegie Corporation Energy, which will build its first commercial 5MW wave power station at Garden Island, south of Fremantle.

But new coal-fired power stations are still proposed elsewhere. The Queensland Government has backed the Wandoan Power Project to build a new, 400MW integrated gasification combined cycle coal-fired power station, which it is hoped will capture and store 90 per cent of its CO2 emissions - somewhere, at some stage. Wandoan is one of the projects likely to receive funding under the Federal Government's $2.4 billion CCS Flagships program, and if it goes ahead construction will be completed in 2015-16.

More substantially the NSW Government, as part of its electricity privatisation, plans two major new baseload power stations to be built at Mount Piper near Lithgow and Bayswater near Muswellbrook. It's still not decided whether these new stations, each of about 2000MW capacity, will be fuelled by gas or coal - if the later, again, supposedly ''CCS-ready''.

The Business Spectator blogger Keith Orchison called this the largest electricity generation development in the state for almost 20 years and, quoting an unnamed industry source, observed drily a decision to build a new coal-fired power station in NSW would be a "a dog fight with a large audience". Let us pray for sanity and assume these new stations are built with gas turbines, following the pattern of recent years in which ever-larger projects have been commissioned, such as Origin Energy's 630MW gas-fired power station at Queensland's Darling Downs or its 1100MW power plant at Mortlake, south-western Victoria.

The second challenge is to retire the worst polluting coal-fired power stations, principally the old brown-coal fired power stations in Latrobe Valley, Victoria, such as Hazelwood and Yallourn. In an outrageous request on the public purse, the owners of these power stations, including the foreign giants International Power and China Light and Power, want a ''bail-out''.

They argue that if they get an additional $6.5 billion or so of taxpayers' money, on top of the $3.5 billion in free permits they are getting under the proposed emissions trading scheme, they may reinvest some of it in new gas turbines. They should get short shrift; better off building the new plant ourselves and floating it, just like the new broadband network. But given our debased emissions trading negotiations, they will probably get everything they want and repatriate the money quick smart.

There is no doubting the benefits of a switch to gas, as part of a transition to renewables. Mark Wakeham of Environment Victoria says converting Hazelwood to gas could be done in two years and would reduce plant emissions by 75 per cent, from 17 million tonnes to just 4 million tonnes of CO2 a year, and greatly reducing water use.

It would cut Victoria's emissions by more than 10 per cent in one fell swoop. The problem is, converting to gas-fired power stations in the Latrobe Valley will employ fewer people because there will be no need to mine brown coal. Hence the State Government's urgent need to pretend something better can be done with the stuff. Turn it to fertiliser? Dry it out and ship it to India? Never mind the environment, hard heads doubt these proposals can ever stack up commercially.

A latent concern is that gas piped from the Gippsland Basin would not suffice to run the state's economy. As a caller from the valley told Jon Faine, the ABC Radio host in Melbourne, this week: "From what I understand, that is quite a limited supply of gas compared to coal and we would extinguish that valuable resource very quickly if it was used for power generation." The gas lobby has a job ahead of it.