Thursday 24 December 2009

Geothermal power plant gets funds
21 December 2009

Plans to develop the UK's first commercial-scale geothermal power station in Cornwall have secured nearly £1.5m of government funding. The power plant - using "hot rocks" technology - is to be based at Redruth and would provide electricity and heat for homes and businesses. Geothermal Engineering Ltd (GEL) has gained the grant from the Department of Energy and Climate Change. The total cost of building the plant will be about £40m.

The power plant will work by pumping water deep underground to be warmed by the earth's natural heat and then returned to the surface. The heated water would power turbines, generating electricity and heat. GEL, based at Gwennap, is hoping to work with Cornwall Council to deliver some of this heat back to the local community. The sustainable energy plant would provide 55MW annually for local use and 10MW for the national grid. A similar project has also been put forward by the Eden Project. Ryan Law, Managing Director of GEL, said: "We are delighted to receive this initial funding which, subject to planning, we will use to start the drilling process in 2010.

He said: "DECC's investment is certainly a step in the right direction but the UK must be more ambitious in funding renewable energy projects." The £1.475m grant is from the first tranche of the government's Deep Geothermal Challenge Fund of £6m, which was launched in October. Wells 5km (3.1 miles) deep would be drilled into the ground where temperatures reach 170C (338F). If the plans are approved by Cornwall Council, it is estimated the plant would be operational by 2013. Geothermal energy is already used in Australia, Iceland and America as an alternative to fossil fuel.

Threat to $800m wind project

Wednesday 23/12/2009 Page: 1

AGL Energy says its plans to build the $800 million Macarthur windfarm in western Victoria are under "enormous pressure" because of a collapse in the price of renewable energy certificates, which is threatening the entire industry. AGL Energy managing director Michael Fraser warned yesterday that the project was just one of many wind farms that might not go ahead if the Federal Government could not tackle the level of uncertainty facing renewable energy investors. The threat highlights the risk to $30 billion of expected investment in renewable energy needed to reach a Federal Government target of 20% of Australia's power from renewable sources by 2020.

To encourage green investment in the absence of a price on carbon, energy companies receive renewable energy certificates in return for producing green power. But the value of the certificates has almost halved, from near $60 to about $30, since the Government issued them to people who install solar hot water systems and other products that do not generate power. Those certificates are issued because the home owner is not using "dirty" power - and the solar energy used instead is counted in the 20% renewable energy target.

Mr Fraser yesterday launched a sweeping attack on the policy, calling the Government's approach a "fraud" that threatened the industry's ability to meet the 2020 target. The oversupply of certificates had caused investment in renewable energy to stop, he said. "The reality is that you've seen virtually no new announcements around largescale investments in the renewable sector from anybody for months now," he said. In September, Solar Systems, the company that planned to build the world's biggest solar energy station, near Mildura, was placed in receivership, a victim of the difficulty raising loans in the global financial crisis. Its 154-MW solar farm would have powered 45,000 homes.

The 350-MW Macarthur windfarm, about 50 kilometres from Hamilton, with a planned 150 turbines 90 metres tall - making it the southern hemisphere's biggest - was expected to create 500 jobs during its three-year construction and power 150,000 homes. Mr Fraser said up to seven other wind farms being considered by the company were under threat. The only new wind farms AGL Energy would definitely build were those required under contracts to the Victorian and South Australian governments to supply power to desalination plants. "Beyond that, you simply won't see us invest until this issue gets resolved," he said.

Mr Fraser's continents cone after the Council of Australian Governments last month launched an inquiry into the fall in the certificates' price. Its report is expected soon. The renewable energy industry has called for a regulator - a "carbon bank" - to act like the Reserve Bank, intervening and buying up certificates when the price is threatened by market fluctuations. Mr Fraser cast strong doubt on Australia's capacity to sleet the target of 20% renewables by 2020, saying the volatility of the market in certificates would create a "boom and bust cycle" in renewable investment. "By definition we are not going to see investment in renewable electricity generation when we are creating renewable certificates from technologies that don't produce electricity," he said. AGL Energy is the country's largest renewable energy operator and developer.

ActewAGL looks to new place in sun

Canberra Times
Tuesday 22/12/2009 Page: 5

ActewAGL and three partners have sold their interests in a proposed $120 million windfarm near Tarago with ActewAGL to focus on its bid to build a solar farm in the ACT. The windfarm received NSW Government development approval in October 2005 but with no purchaser for electricity from the windfarm, construction has not begun. Rights to the windfarm, on the Woodlawn and Pylara properties near Tarago, have been sold to Infigen Energy, which owns the nearby $400 million Capital Wind Farm near Bungendore, officially opened on November 18 by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

The company expects to lodge an amended development application for the Tarago project in the first quarter of next year but has not said when construction of a 42 MW capacity windfarm would begin. It is one of four NSW sites on which the company proposes to build wind farms, probably within five years. Two other sites considered by ActewAGL, Mt Spring near Hall but in NSW and Collector, were soon abandoned. But in August 2004, ActewAGL predicted construction of the first windfarm to supply electricity direct to it would begin in about nine months. Its partners in the proposed Tarago project were Acciona Energy, Collex and ANZ Infrastructure Services.

ActewAGL general manager business development aid strategy Dianne O'Hara said yesterday the proposed windfarm near Tarago had not progressed since it had obtained development approval in 2005. "In the end we decided to sell it. The new owners are better placed to develop it," she said. The four parties ownership structure had made it hard to find a mutually acceptable way forward. Each party had its own priorities. Much of the delay had occurred while waiting for market conditions to be right. "We had discussions with the new owners and believe the farm will progress under them."

ActewAGL still wanted to do what it could with renewable generation and had made no secret of its keenness to be involved in the proposed ACT solar farm. "Our efforts are concentrating on that." ActewAGL is one of 10 proponents invited by the ACT Government to develop detailed proposals for a solar farm. Ms O'Hara said producing renewable energy in the ACT was quite restricted, "which is why we are keen to participate in the solar farm". Without wanting to disclose too much to its nine competitors, she said ActewAGL was confident it could produce enough electricity from a solar farm to power 10,000 homes. The development approval for the proposed windfarm near Tarago provided for 140 MW hours a year - enough to power 22,000 homes. Industry sources believe a mandatory renewable energy target of 20% by 2020 will improve prospects.

Capital push to green up the grid

Canberra Times
Tuesday 22/12/2009 Page: 1

smart meters could be fast-tracked for ACT homes and drivers of electric vehicles could be rewarded with lower registration and parking costs under an ACT Government plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 10% in the next decade. Minister for Energy and the Environment Simon Corbell issued a draft energy policy yesterday that aims at more than doubling the amount of renewable energy used in the ACT to 25% by 2020 through proliferation of solar energy locally and sourcing more green power through the National Energy Market.

Mr Corbell acknowledged some of the measures to reduce emissions could add to the cost of electricity for the ACT but said they would also increase security of supply. The Draft Sustainable Energy Policy 2010-2020 raises the possibility of extending concessions to low income earners to allow them to take part in the push to reduce emissions by increasing the current energy concession and indexing it to electricity price rises. Currently 22,000 ACT households receive a concession under the scheme.

Transport would be targeted as part of the plan, with the ACT Government to consider introducing electric vehicles in the government fleet that would be compatible with the trial electric vehicle charging network proposed for Canberra by Better Place. Rail freight would be encouraged over other transport options and the Government will continue its push to see paid parking introduced in the parliamentary triangle to encourage workers in the area to consider public transport or alternatives such as cycling and walking. The ACT currently purchases virtually all of its electricity from generators outside its borders through its connection to the National Energy Market.

The draft plan recognises the vulnerability of having a single link to that network and proposes constructing a second link to the national grid to secure against blackouts and other threats to supply. Mr Corbell said the purpose of releasing the draft in its current form was to encourage debate and feedback from the Canberra community.

"The intention of the policy is to make sure more of our electricity is sourced here, we won't just be sourcing from the national market," he said. "More and more will be coming from local generation so that individual buildings become more and more self-sufficient. And while there's still a cost associated with that, it improves the security and reliability of supply and hopefully it can also maintain a competitive price for consumers," Mr Corbell said.

Mr Corbell said that moves such as extending the ACT's generous feed-in tariff from households to larger businesses would send the sort of investment signal required to trigger companies to build smaller scale renewable generation capacity. ACT Greens spokesman Shane Rattenbury said he was pleased to see an energy policy taking shape, as it was a vital policy tool for reducing the ACT's environmental footprint. Independent modelling had estimated that the cost of increasing the proportion of the ACT's electricity that cane from renewable sources showed it was within reach.

"We're looking at $200-$300 a year per capita would see 50% of ACT's electricity coming from green sources. That's about $4 a week for the average household. There is a willingness and a desire here to snake our energy supply cleaner and greener," he said. ACT Opposition Leader Zed Seselja said there were a number of promising initiatives in the draft, but little detail on how the Government would achieve its objectives at a reasonable cost to ACT taxpayers. "We agree with the aspirations and acknowledge there will be costs, but what we need to achieve is the best bang for our buck. We do support large-scale solar, energy efficiency in homes is also essential. But there has been a lot of money wasted on less cost-effective ways of reducing emissions through the feed-in tariff," Mr Seselja said.

Israeli firm uses giant buoy for wave energy
December 22, 2009

HAIFA, Israel, Dec 21 (Reuters) - Harnessing the energy of a giant buoy locked underwater may be the key to generating electricity efficiently from waves, an Israeli company says. While there are around 100 companies around the world working on marine energy, including wave and tidal power, only a handful have installed their devices at sea. Others are running tests in tanks or on computers [nLS254204]. Three-year-old firm Seanergy threw its hat in the ring this month with its first installation - - a 20-metre (66-ft)-high metal column with an internal water reservoir that holds a four-metre (13-ft)-wide buoy - - in the port of Haifa in northern Israel.

Much like how a ball held underwater rises to the surface when released, the buoy, locked in place by hydraulics until a wave comes to fill the reservoir, shoots up with 20 tonnes of force - - enough to power a generator or desalinate seawater. "Currently, we need about four months to manufacture a cluster of five buoys. But eventually, we see them in farms and clusters along the coast in every part of the world," said Seanergy founder Shlomo Gilboa.

Ocean power is the smallest sector in environmentally-friendly renewable energy. The British renewable energy association BWEA said marine technologies are in the early stages of development and are about 10 years behind wind technologies. "The costs associated with these technologies are currently significantly greater than those of wind generation, although they should be expected to fall rapidly through a 'learning curve' effect once large scale deployment begins," the group said. Depending on the waves, Seanergy's buoy can rise and fall six to ten times every minute, each time shooting a stream of water at more than 70 atmospheres of pressure.

That is powerful enough for the system in Haifa, which out of water looks like an elevator shaft, to desalinate seawater through reverse-osmosis. It dumps the brine water back to sea. Each column costs about $125,000, Gilboa said, and with four metre-high waves, a cluster of five can generate about one MW of electricity, or can desalinate up to a 850,000 cubic metres (225 million gallons) of fresh water annually. The system is more efficient than any other wave energy systems on the market today, Gilboa said. The port of Haifa plans on using Seanergy's system to power its cranes and lighting in the future, said the port's vice-president of engineering and development, Zohar Rubin.

Solar thermal plant to come up at Shive
21 December 2009

PUNE: A power generation unit, using solar thermal technology, will soon come up at Shive, a village in Khedtaluka, some 45 km from Pune. If the experimental project succeeds, the village will be the first in the country to have its own electricity generation plant. What's more, the Shive model will likely be replicated across the country with public-private partnership.

The project is being set up as a joint venture by the Union government and city-based Thermax Ltd. Unlike the conventional system of power generation, this plant will use solar energy to heat water and the steam will rotate the turbine to generate 250 kW power for the village. The power generation plant will not be connected to the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Ltd grid. Of the total project cost of Rs 15 crore, the Union government will invest Rs 13 crore and the rest will be borne by Thermax.

According to Prithviraj Chavan, Union minister of state for Science and Technology, who laid the foundation stone of the project along with Meher Pudumjee, chairperson of Thermax on Sunday, this project could soon be a model for other such projects in the country. Shive is located on the backWaters of the Bhama-Askhed dam, now under construction, It has a population of 1,000 and receives power only for few hours in a day. The village is a few kilometres from the Talegaon MIDC where multinational companies have their huge set-ups.

Although many farmers use diesel engines to pump water to their farms, it is not feasible for every farmer to follow such a costly way of farming. Chavan said, "Of the total number of families in the country, 56 per cent of them are deprived of an electricity connection. The Union government wants to explore all the available ways of power generation and the solar thermal power generation project is a first step towards this."

The project will begin in the next 18 months, during which time Thermax will set up aluminium mirrors that will track the sunlight for higher heat generation. Of the three acres of land donated by the villagers, 80 per cent of it will be utilised to set up aluminium mirrors. Thermax will also set up a boiler, which will use bio-waste sourced from the village to produce electricity for a maximum two hours. It will work as a power back-up for the village. The total project will supply a minimum of 10 hours of electricity to the village, company officials said.

After commencement of the project, Thermax will maintain and run the project for five years. The government will bear the maintenance cost. A team of 20 people from the company will be deployed at the village for completion of the project.

Wednesday 23 December 2009

Exxon finalises Japan deal for PNG gas project
Wed, 23 Dec 09

SYDNEY - Energy giant Exxon-Mobil Tuesday said it had finalised an agreement to supply Japan's Osaka Gas from its 15 billion US dollar liquefied natural gas project (LNG) in Papua New Guinea. United States-based Exxon-Mobil said the contract was for the supply of about 1.5 million metric tonnes of LNG a year from the development for 20 years, bringing the conditionally approved project closer to realisation.

"We are pleased to have entered into this important agreement with a leading LNG customer in Japan and to have started a new relationship with Osaka Gas," said LNG marketing vice president Ron Billings, in a statement to investors. "The PNG LNG project will provide a clean-burning supply of natural gas to help meet growing energy demand in Japan." Exxon-Mobil said Osaka was a major energy supplier in Japan, servicing 6.9 million customers and purchasing 7.4 million tonnes of LNG in 2008.

Exxon-Mobil and partners - - Australia's Santos and Oil Search, Japan's Nippon Oil and Eda Oil, owned by PNG's government - - approved the project on December 8, conditional on securing two more sales contracts, including with Osaka. Oil Search told Australian investors the partners expected to sign the final sales agreement, with Taiwan's state-owned CPC Corp, in early 2010. Potentially the largest-ever such deal for PNG, analysts have said the Exxon-Mobil development could double the impoverished Pacific country's income. Binding contracts have already been signed for the sale of a combined 3.8 million tonnes per year from the project to China's Sinopec and Tokyo Electric Power Co in Japan.

Lots of land needed for solar thermal power

The company behind one of the first major gas- solar thermal projects in Australia says the technology is largely based on farming the sun. ERM Power plans to build a 500 MW hybrid gas - solar thermal power plant in remote Australia by the end of next year. solar thermal power is produced by using mirrors to concentrate the sun onto troughs containing a solution which then becomes hot enough to generate steam to drive turbines.

Director of ERM Power, Phillip Saint Baker, says there's no getting away from the heavy land use component of solar thermal. "When you're talking about solar capture you're talking about m²," he says. "It's surface area driven technology, so for about 100 MWs of solar capture you need well over a thousand acres." "So you need to pick a site that's also compatible with that land use."

Brown coal's role in clean energy

Tuesday 22/12/2009 Page: 12

VICTORIA'S beleaguered brown coal could, ironically, be the answer to providing clean, renewable base-load power. Academics at the University of Melbourne assessing the potential of geothermal energy in Victoria have pinpointed the Latrobe Valley as an exciting hot spot. They are leading a project to provide an independent report to answer whether geothermal - the process of using the heat in the earths core to generate electricity at the surface - will play a significant role in supplying Victoria's future energy needs or whether it will remain a niche concept.

Professor Mike Sandiford, a geologist at the university, said research had found that temperatures beneath the Latrobe Valley were higher at a depth of 700 metres than anywhere else in Australia. "Southern Victoria has very insulating rocks and there ares no more insulating rocks than coal," he said. "Rather than producing heat, they act as a thermal blanket and trap it underneath. "We estimate it could be 200 degrees Celsius at four kilometres down, but it is hard to see through coal so we need to drill some test holes to make an assessment."

A steering committee, including the public policy- focused Grattan Institute, will meet the Victorian Government today to ask for about $200,000 to complete their study. About $50 million will later be sought to drill slim-line holes to test the heat source at depth. That could set them on a collision course, though, with Greenearth Energy, which has received the licence to drill in the Latrobe Valley. The Victorian Government recently handed $25 million to Greenearth Energy, which is planning to drill around Geelong and develop a 12-MW geothermal demonstration plant.

China considers compulsory green energy purchases

BEIJING, Dec. 22 (Xinhua) - - China's top legislature Tuesday discussed a legal amendment to require electricity grid companies to buy all the power produced by renewable energy generators. The State Council energy department and the state power regulatory agency should supervise the purchases, said the draft amendment to the Renewable Energy Law, which was submitted to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) for its second reading.

It is an important official measure to support the country's fledgling renewable energy sector, experts say. According to the draft, the State Council energy department, in conjunction with the state power regulatory agency and the State Council finance departments, should "determine the proportion of renewable energy power generation to the overall generating capacity for a certain period."

A national plan on renewable energy development issued in 2007 set a target to increase renewable resources to supply 15% of its total energy consumption by 2020, in a bid to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote sustainable economic growth. Power enterprises refusing to buy power produced by renewable energy generators will be fined up to an amount double that of the economic loss of the renewable energy company, the draft said.

However, some lawmakers said the development of renewable energy in China faced many problems such as difficulties in connecting with the grid, over-production of wind energy and solar cell material, and a lack of innovative key technologies. They suggested that revision of the law should focus on prevention of blind development of renewable energy. Industry experts estimated that one third of the country's installed capacity of wind energy could not be well connected to the grid.

Of various types of renewable energy in China, lawmakers said, hydropower's quality and technology was the best. They suggested to further standardize hydropower development. Other lawmakers said the country should support the development of biomass energy using crop straw so as to improve ecological environment and farmers' income. Lawmaker Wang Shucheng, a former Minister of Water Resources, supported the proposal of grid companies buying all the power produced from renewable energy.

Wang opposed a previous idea of setting a minimum purchase quota for electric power generated by renewable energy, which would be "a hit to the fledgling wind energy industry" and was unfeasible. Grid companies said a quota was hard to determine as generation of solar and wind energy was subject to "natural factors" such as wind force and light. Industry insiders were cited in an NPC report as saying that if grid operators completed the minimum purchase quota for renewable energy, they would have no incentive to buy more renewable energy power, "which is not in line with the principle of promoting renewable energy development."

Wang suggested the use of "smart grids" as a solution to the blind development of wind energy. The smart grid includes an intelligent monitoring system that can integrate alternative sources of electricity, such as solar and wind. Renewable energy includes non-fossil fuels such as wind and solar energy, hydropower, biomass, geothermal and ocean energy. The law, which took effect in January 2006, was aimed at promoting the use of renewable energy, increasing energy supply, safeguarding energy security and protecting the environment.

It covered pricing management and supervision measures. Premier Wen Jiabao told the Copenhagen Climate Change conference on Friday that between 2005 and 2008, renewable energy increased by 51% in China, representing an annual growth rate of 14.7%. Wen said in 2008, the use of renewable energy reached an equivalent of 250 million tons of standard coal. "A total of 30.5 million rural households gained access to bio-gas, equivalent to a reduction of 49 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions," he said.

Signaling an official effort to shore up clean energy development and fight climate change, the law required the government set up a special fund to support renewable energy scientific research, finance rural clean energy projects, build independent power systems in remote areas and islands, and build information networks to exploit renewable energy. The fund will be managed by finance, energy and pricing sectors of the State Council. The draft amendment stated that the government should make national development plans for renewable energy, involving grid construction, services and supporting measures.

China made a national plan on renewable energy in 2007. The draft also said grid companies should sign agreements with certified renewable energy power generation enterprises, and buy all the power up to the standard. The renewable energy power generation enterprises were obliged to assist the grid companies to ensure network security, it said. In 2008, China used more hydro and solar energy than any other country and its use of wind energy ranked fourth.

Tuesday 22 December 2009

Commercial-scale solar developers pocket funding
December 18, 2009

Two solar project developers this week raised funds to install commercial and utility scale projects from a somewhat unlikely source: venture capital firms. On Friday, Tioga Energy said it has raised $20 million to build out its business of providing project financing for commercial and municipal solar installations, such as schools and businesses. Investors included solar wafer manufacturer MEMC and venture capital companies NGEN Partners, Nth Power, and Draper Fisher Jurvetson.

SunBorne Energy Holdings on Wednesday disclosed that it has secured $5.2 million in funding from venture-capital company General Catalyst. It plans to develop utility-scale solar projects in India, including a planned solar thermal project in the state of Gujarat. Although they are addressing different customers, both companies are in the business of renewable energy project development, where they build, own, and then maintain solar installations.That model is typically used for non-residential solar because third-party financing makes investment far more attractive to prospective customers such as businesses and utilities.

Tioga Energy provides power purchase agreements in which the customer doesn't have to pay the upfront cost of the solar panels. Instead, it purchases the electricity generated by the panels from Tioga, which finances the installation and manages ongoing operation. Financing renewable energy projects is typically done by banks or companies specialised in project financing, but that source of money has dried up in the economic downturn. Venture capitalists, meanwhile, have typically stayed clear of project finance because they seek bigger financial returns by investing in technology or business model innovations.

But General Catalyst is starting to look at project development companies as part of its mix of investments, said investor Bilal Zuberi in his blog. "Strong execution, plus control over a scarce resource, allows a developer to not just create value from projects on the ground but also from future pipeline of projects," he said. The series B round for Tioga Energy will serve to finance construction and development of new projects. NGEN Partner Steve Parry in a statement said it invested in Tioga's series B round with MEMC to accelerate the adoption of green technology and renewable energy.

Household solar rebates burn through extra $500m

Sydney Morning Herald
Monday 21/12/2009 Page: 6

THE household solar rebate scheme has blown a $500 million hole in the federal Environment Department's budget. The massive bill for the scheme is the result of a high demand for rebates and a last-minute rush to sign tip after the Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, announced its cancellation, with just 24 hours notice, on June 9.

The revelation is contained in department budget estimates prepared for Senate estimates hearings, which begin in the first week of Parliament next year. The document states that an additional $534 million over two years has been provided to pay for the short gap in funding for the rebate. A spokesman for Mr Garrett said yesterday that the scheme was on track to deliver 120,000 solar panels to homes since November 2007.

"This program will deliver the installation of eight times the number of systems in our original election commitment," the spokesman said. "Just three years ago this program had an annual budget of just $6 million. We have spent close to $1 billion." In the last 14 days of the scheme, 55,000 people - up to 90% of all those who applied - were granted rebates of up to $8000. The scheme has been replaced with a "solar credits" program that grants households additional renewable energy credits for their solar panels, which can be sold on the market.

The Climate Change Minister, Penny Wong, has since announced a Council of Australian Governments investigation into the renewable energy market after the price of credits crashed earlier this year - meaning households are getting less rebate for buying solar panels. The Government has also closed or scaled down a number of renewable-energy and water saving measures for schools, businesses and households as cost-saving measures to offset the massive rebate bill.

The blowout to the Environment Department's budget comes as the Government seeks $2 billion in funding for departments on top of the money allocated in the 2009-10 federal budget, the result of budget blowouts, additional government announcements, and the drop in value of government assets due to the surging Australian dollar. The Environment Department's request for additional funding is the second highest after the Defence Department, which is requesting $690 million.

Solar plan leaves $534m shortfall - Other energy-saving programs cut to cover shortfall

Monday 21/12/2009 Page: 9

THE cancelled household solar rebate scheme has blown a $534 million hole in the Federal Environment Department's budget. The huge bill for the $8000 rebate scheme is the result of a high demand for the popular scheme and a last-minute rush to sign up after it was abruptly cancelled by Environment Minister Peter Garrett in June. The revelation is contained in an additional department budget report prepared for Senate estimates hearings, which start in the first week of Parliament next year.

The document states that an additional $534 million over two years has been provided to pay for the now-cancelled rebate. A spokesman for Mr Garrett said yesterday the program was on track to deliver 120,000 solar panels to homes since November 2007. "This program will deliver the installation of eight times the number of systems in our original election commitment," Mr Garrett's spokesman said. "Just three years ago this program had an annual budget of just $6 million. We have spent close to $1 billion."

On June 9, Mr Garrett closed the scheme with less than 24 hours' notice, causing mayhem at solar panel stores as home owners rushed to sign up. In the last 14 days of the scheme 55,000 people were granted rebates of up to $8000, up to 90% of all those who applied. The scheme has been replaced with the "solar credits" program, which grants households additional renewable energy certificates for their solar panels, which can be sold on the market.

Climate Change Minister Penny Wong has since announced a Council of Australian Governments investigation into the renewable energy market after the price of credits crashed earlier this year - meaning that households are getting less and less rebate for buying solar panels. The Government has also noted the closure or scaling down of a number of energy efficiency and water-saving measures for schools, businesses and households as cost saving measures to offset the huge rebate bill.

That includes cuts to the $2.45 billion household insulation program, and the closure of the National Solar Schools Program, saving $53.1 million over two years. About $64.4 million has also been cut from programs designed to improve water efficiency. The blow-out to the Environment Department's budget comes as the Government seeks $2 billion on top of the 2009-10 federal budget in funding for departments.

The Environment Department has asked for the second most additional funding after the Department of Defence, which is seeking $690 million. The $2 billion in additional funding is the result of budget blow-outs, additional Government announcements, and the drop in value of Government assets due to the surging Australian dollar.

SA: Save energy, save tax

Independent Weekly
Friday 18/12/2009 Page: 26

New renewable energy projects in South Australia will get big tax breaks, says the State Government. From July, next year, investors in large-scale renewable energy projects will get payroll tax rebates for the labour associated with direct, on-site construction. Rebates will be set at a maximum of $5 million for each solar project and $1 million for every wind energy project and will remain in place for the next four years.

"I expect the effect of this rebate will be to provide a payroll tax holiday for most, if not all, new wind farms over the four-year period." Premier Mike Rann said in a statement released from the Copenhagen climate change summit. "It will also provide significant relief for investors in large-scale solar energy projects."

The premier said the investment incentives would help SA reach its target of having 20% of all electricity generated from renewable energy by 2014 and 33% by 2020. "The Government recognises that these goals will not be achieved by only the attractiveness for investors of our excellent renewable energy resources alone," he said. "An important part of our success has been implementing regulatory regimes that provide efficient and certain processes for investors."

Rise and fall of the gas provinces

Sydney Morning Herald
Thursday 17/12/2009 Page: 4

THE gas market will see a fundamental shift over the next two decades as gas-fired electricity generation expands under the Federal Government's carbon reduction scheme. Victoria's gas reserves will plunge and Queensland will become the dominant gas supplier on the east coast.

The forecast is contained in the first so-called "Statement of Opportunities" for gas released today by the Australian Energy Market Operator, which took over the running of the electricity market from the National Electricity Market Management Company earlier this year, and also took responsibility for the gas market. By the end of the two decades Victoria could be down to 10 years of gas reserves - or less - forcing it to consider sourcing gas from other states for the first time, which will boost its gas price significantly.

NSW is likely to be forced to turn increasingly to Queensland for gas, although the wild card is locally sourced gas, as the exploration push for coal-seam methane gas gets under way in earnest in this state. According to the AEMO, NSW will experience a doubling in gas reserves from 2025, largely thanks to an anticipated rise in gas reserves around Camden, to Sydney's south-west, as less gas is available from Victoria. Reserves from other regions such as Narrabri and Casino, in the state's north, are not yet significant.

The forecast suggests Queensland's domestic annual gas demand will treble to 458 petajoules by 2029 from 166PJ, and export demand for liquefied natural gas will reach 1302PJ by 2029. Victoria's annual demand will almost double to 403PJ by 2024. But the big change will come from an expected 55% drop in Victoria's gas reserves to 4344PJ by 2029, equal to just 10 years of production. But strong economic growth between now and then could reduce it to just seven years of reserves by then.

This anticipated decline will result from a rise in demand in Victoria, and elsewhere, coupled with falling reserves as Bass Strait's large oil and gasfields near the end of their life. At the same time, South Australia's reserves are expected to fall by a quarter to 1075PJ, equal to 14 years of production. Under these forecasts, NSW will need extra pipeline capacity from 2012, as well as Victoria, marginally at first but more significantly from 2017. "All of the pipelines in Queensland.., will be exceeded from between 2010 and 2013," the AEMO said.

NSW will need additional gas pipelines linking to Queensland, which may result in the long-mooted Hunter to Queensland pipeline proceeding. In total, domestic gas demand in the eastern states will double to 1205PJ a year by 2029 from 626PJ now. Over this period the NSW annual gas demand will reach 199PJ, up from 130PJ now, but well below Queensland and Victoria, largely due to the lack of sizeable gas reserves in NSW, coupled with its higher price relative to other states.

Electricity market needs capital boost

Summaries - Australian Financial Review
Thursday 17/12/2009 Page: 11

According to new research due to be released by the federal Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson, Australia's $11 billion national electricity market will require significant extensions due to the Rudd governments greenhouse policy. Mr Ferguson said the enforceable renewable energy target and proposed emissions trading scheme could increase wind energy by 450% in five years and gas power tenfold in 20 years.

Geothermal power will take 15 years to become profitable under the current technologies. The report find that the NEM will need address short falls in the grid and be able to connect renewable power to them, which are often set in distant locations unlike coal and hydro. The Australian Energy Market Operator believes that there will be greater congestion in the networks as the renewable energy comes online. Projects that will be looked at are the existing electricity interconnector between Queensland and NSW.

Industry sources believe that there will an expenditure of $1.2 billion a year in capital investments on transmission infrastructure. The report was produced by the AEMO under the reforms agreed by the Council of Australian Governments. NSW pricing regulator believes electricity charges should rise by 42% and 62% over the next three years commencing June 2010.

The Coalition and the Greens defeated the Governments emissions trading legislation in parliament. Mr Ferguson will also release a report into the viability of gas and how it will grow, exports and domestic use will grow by threefold in Queensland over the next 20 years, while in Victoria growth has been set to double in the next 15 years.

Syngas raises $850,000

Adelaide Advertiser
Thursday 17/12/2009 Page: 51

Syngas has raised more than $850,000 in capital for its proposed $3 billion coal-biomass-to-diesel Clinton project, 120km northwest of Adelaide. The company placed more than 26.5 million shares at 3.2c each with sophisticated investors following shareholder approval for the move. The $850,184 raised will be used in the continued development of the Clinton project, which is expected to produce 15,800 barrels a day of ultra-clean diesel throughout its expected 40-year lifespan.

The Perth-based company, which will relocate to Adelaide in March, has appointed the Australian Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility to provide stakeholder engagement services during the project's development. Managing director Merrill Gray said gaining local community approval was part of a key stakeholder outcome.

Science park focuses on green energy and biomedical tech development

The Hsinchu Science Park, known as Taiwan's "silicon valley," has targeted the green energy and biomedical sectors as key industries that will propel the park's development over the next 10 years and complement its strength in semiconductors and flat panels. In an interview with the Central News Agency, Park Director-General Yen Tzong-ming expressed confidence in Taiwan's ability to maintain its edge in the global semiconductor and flat panel markets, which he said "will continue to be the park's two major industrial pillars."

Yen attributed that success to the park's ability over its 29-year history to build a complete industrial cluster and cultivate specialised technologies in the semiconductor sector, and now it hopes to do the same in the green energy field as concerns over climate change mount. In the solar energy sector, for example, upstream producers of solar cell wafer materials and midstream manufacturers of solar cells have already moved into the park, Yen said.

As to light-emitting diode (LED) technologies, seen as having huge potential in saving energy used in lighting, production lines in the park have been upgraded from simply making LED chips to the production of ultra bright LED epitaxial wafers. Efforts are now being made to develop technologies related to long wavelength communication and advanced laser diodes, Yen noted. He revealed that the park administration plans to position its Tongluo park as an environmental science zone for the planned green energy cluster.

Turning to the biomedical industry, Yen said the administration is planning to develop the Hsinchu Biomedical Science Park, located in Jhubei in northern Hsinchu County, into a cradle of knowledge innovation and cultivation featuring an international-standard medical center and biotech businesses. It will host factories, a medical center, a center for the development and testing of medical equipment and devices, and an industrial innovation center. Yen said the facilities should be completed by 2015.

California Approves New Wind Power Transmission Lines, Solar Roofs
December 18, 2009

SACRAMENTO, California, December 18, 2009 (ENS) - California energy regulators have approved Southern California Edison's request to construct a 173 mile long electricity transmission line to bring wind energy generated in the Tehachapi Wind Resource Area in Kern County to Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties. To increase access to new renewable energy, the California Public Utilities Commission, CPUC, Thursday approved construction of Segments 4-11 of the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said, "California leads the nation in developing renewable energy, and with the approval of this project our ability to harness the power of the wind and other renewable sources to deliver clean energy to Californians has been strengthened." "The thousands of MWs of renewable energy capacity this transmission line will add to our grid will help California meet its ambitious Renewable Portfolio Standard, protect our environment, increase our energy security and further the growth of our green economy," the governor said.

In September, the governor signed an executive order directing the California Air Resources Board to adopt regulations increasing California's Renewable Portfolio Standard from 20% by 2010 to 33% by 2020. The CPUC and California Energy Commission have endorsed this change and it is a key greenhouse gas reduction strategy in the California Air Resources Board's Scoping Plan for Assembly Bill 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act.

The transmission project approved Thursday is the main portion of the 11 segment Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project. It will provide access for up to 4,500 MW of wind energy from the Tehachapi Wind Resource Area in a mountainous part of the state to provide power to Los Angeles and San Bernardino. "This project will help bring renewable energy to the grid that would otherwise remain unavailable," said CPUC President Michael Peevey. "Ensuring adequate transmission infrastructure is vital to helping the state reach its 20% renewable energy goal and will contribute significantly to meeting the 33% goal."

"The Tehachapi region is the largest wind resource zone in California and can support economic renewable resource development," said Commissioner Dian Grueneich, the commissioner assigned to the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project proceeding. "Edison has already signed contracts for up to 1,800 MWs of wind resources in Tehachapi and this project will provide transmission for full build-out of the wind resource," said Grueneich. "It will also ease transmission constraints for Los Angeles and assure grid reliability."

As lead state permitting agency for the Tehachapi project, the CPUC conducted an environmental impact report in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act. After evaluating the environmental impacts of the proposed project and 11 alternatives, the final report identifies the project approved Thursday as the Environmentally Superior Alternative. This alternative covers 173 miles from the new Whirlwind substation in southern Kern County to the Mira Loma substation in Riverside County.

About 70% of the approved project's route is on existing right-of-way in compliance with the state policy, known under a state law as the Garamendi Principles, to site and expand transmission infrastructure within existing right of way. The CPUC set a maximum cost of $1.5 billion for the project, excluding allowance for funds used during construction, estimated at $261.82 million, for an estimated total project cost of $1.8 billion for the project. Commissioner John Bohn commented, "This has been a very difficult decision. The broader interests of the people of California are best served by the timely delivery of increased amounts of renewable generation. Therefore, we must go forward."

Commissioner Timothy Alan Simon said, "It is imperative that California sites and constructs transmission more expeditiously, and this decision is a step in the right direction. It is important that we invest in the critical infrastructure that will move us incrementally closer to our renewable energy goals while fostering green collar jobs opportunities." In 2007, the commission approved Segments 1-3 of the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project, which will deliver about 700 MWs of the project's total carrying capacity. Construction on these segments is nearly complete and is expected to be fully energised by the end of this year.

This brings to 500 miles the total of new transmission approved by the California Public Utilities Commission, CPUC, for the state's investor-owned utilities. Five major lines capable of carrying 9,000 MWs of power have been approved in the past three years with an infrastructure investment of more than $4.5 billion. Also on Thursday, the California Public Utilities Commission today approved a competitive solicitation process by which Southern California Edison, SCE, will offer independent renewable energy project developers long-term contracts to install 250 MWs of solar photovoltaic generation on commercial rooftops within the utility's service area.

The solicitation plan is part of a June 2009 Commission decision expanding a renewable energy generation plan proposed by SCE to install two square miles of advanced solar panels on large commercial rooftops. Regulators not only approved the proposed local utility owned and operated solar generation stations but asked SCE to invite independent power producers to add another 250 MWs of solar generation to the project. The two programs would bring to 500 MWs the total generating capacity of the project – the largest U.S, photovoltaic program ever undertaken. At peak operation, the combined output will meet the needs of 325,000 average Southern California homes.

"We undertook this project believing it would help California meet its aggressive "million solar roofs" goal and at roughly half the cost of typical photovoltaic installations," said SCE Senior Vice President of Power Procurement Stuart Hemphill. SCE currently plans to launch the solicitation during the first quarter of 2010. It will be open to all solar project developers. SCE will then review proposals and award long-term power contracts to winning bidders later in the year.

The first two commercial rooftop installations in SCE's part of this solar generation project are already providing power to Southern California's Inland Empire. A 33,700-panel, two MW installation began powering the Fontana area during the fall of 2008. And a 16,200-panel, one MW installation serving Chino was connected to the grid in October.

Sunday 20 December 2009

Ban to hit inefficient air-conditioners
Dec 17, 2009

The sale of inefficient air-conditioners will be banned from next July in South Australia. Premier Mike Rann says it will not affect air-conditioners already installed. "The inefficient air-conditioners we are talking about are costly for consumers and for the environment," Mr Rann said from Copenhagen, where he chaired a meeting during the climate summit. "[They] impose a cost burden on the whole community. "That's because the extra energy needed to power them means bigger power stations, bigger transmission boosters and bigger distribution lines, the cost of which is passed on to all consumers via bigger electricity bills."

Mr Rann says SA will be first to have a ban and other states are expected to follow. He says COAG committed to a further 10 per cent improvement in national energy efficiency requirements by October 2011, but South Australians will not have to wait that long. He says the SA Government will contribute $200,000 to research and development of solar thermal air-conditioners for residential use.

Germany may trim solar power incentives
Dec 16, 2009

FRANKFURT, Dec 16 (Reuters) - Germany may trim incentives for solar energy producers next year but still aims to double the proportion of energy it generates from renewable sources by 2020, despite overcapacity and a subdued economic outlook.

Senior government and industry officials told Reuters both sides want to work together in January to reform the Renewable Energy Act (EEG), which regulates a gradual annual drop in feed-in tariffs, to reflect a steeper overall slide in costs. Officials from both sides said any added reduction in the state-mandated fees that utilities pay for photovoltaic power would be moderate and designed to prevent damaging a fast-growing sector that has created tens of thousands of jobs.

Industry analysts and stock markets have been nervously watching the moves from Berlin, fearful that any steep cuts could hit the sector and prices, as happened in 2008 when Spain - - another major producer - - slashed incentives. Germany is a world leader in green energy with a 15% share of all electricity produced and wants to double that to 30% by 2020. "There won't be any radical changes," one senior government official said. "There's been over-promotion (of solar) in some areas. Some big systems now being set up in fields isn't really what the law was designed for. We'll have to take a look. The sector has even come to tell us there's been too much incentive in some areas."

Germany's photovoltaic industry has boomed since the EEG was created in 2000. More than half the world's solar energy is produced there and some 80,000 jobs have been created. A record 3 GWs of capacity could be added in 2009. Utilities are obliged to pay 43 cents per kW hour of electricity produced for 20 years for systems installed in 2009. That rate has been falling by about 8% per year and will fall about 10% in 2010, or possibly more.

"I am confident that we will be able to find a moderate solution that satisfies everyone," Carsten Koernig, head of Germany's BSW solar industry association, told Reuters. "We've signalled to political leaders that thanks to rising capacity and technological developments there's scope for modest adjustments to.., tariffs... But it's important to get the framework right so it won't be debated or changed every year." The share prices of German firms such as Q-Cells (QCEG.DE), Solarworld (SWVG.DE) and Conergy (CGYG.DE) have gyrated on alternating media reports of steep or modest cuts.

Koernig said the solar industry could absorb an additional one-off reduction of about 5% in the feed-in tariffs in mid-2010 and has offered that to the government. "If the sector continues to grow as strongly as it is now, this reduction could be permanent." Shortly after the September general election, some senior politicians in the conservative Christian Democrats and their new coalition partners, the Free Democrats, called for steep cuts of up to 30% for the CO2-free energy. But Conservative leaders in states with major photovoltaic industries - - Saxony, Thuringia, Saxony-Anhalt, Bavaria and Baden-Wuerttemberg - - voiced opposition, which put the issue on the back burner.

World's largest solar energy project planned for Africa desert
15 Dec 2009

British homes could soon be powered by "desert electricity", according to backers of a large solar energy project in the Sahara that will overtake current sites in Spain. The Desertec Foundation Industrial Initiative (DII) group claims a network of solar plants in north Africa harnessing the sun's rays will be the biggest in the world, dwarfing the current largest installation already running at Andasol in southern Spain. Planners hope the project will eventually provide 15 per cent of Europe's electricity by 2050, together with similar amounts of electricity for countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

It is thought the energy demands of the world could be met by covering as little as one per cent of the world's deserts. Dr Gerry Wolff, coordinator of Desertec Foundation-UK, a group of British investors in the project, said: "Within five years people in the UK could start to use desert electricity that has been produced in the Sahara. "Householders will be able to say they are making a cup of tea with energy collected from the African sun. "The consortium of businesses needs to talk to the relevant governments and there will be a need to make changes to laws and regulations to smooth the path for these developments.

"An important point that must be stressed is that the electricity will be for people throughout Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. If everyone is benefiting, this will help the project to run smoothly. "Much of the project depends on the good will of the people living in the countries where we will collect the sunshine." The DII group hopes to begin building the huge solar plants within three years and delivering energy by 2015. Instead of using photovoltaic solar panels that absorb the sun's blistering rays, hundreds of giant mirrors would instead reflect the light and concentrate it – firing the sunbeams at a focal point, such as a tower next to the field of mirrors.

Such technology is already at work at the PS10 and PS20 CSP plants near Seville in Spain. Dr Wolff added: "Because it is relatively cheap and easy to store solar heat, a CSP plant can carry on generating electricity at night – something that is not so easy to do with photovoltaic solar panels." The full list of businesses who have joined the consortium are ABB, Cevital, Deutsche Bank, E.ON, HSH Nordbank, MAN Solar Millennium, Munich Re, M&W Zander, RWE, Schott Solar, and Siemens.