Saturday 23 January 2010

India Unveils Renewable Energy Trade Rules
JANUARY 19, 2010

MUMBAI - - India's federal electricity regulator announced a policy for regulating tradable energy instruments in the country, a step that will help open up its multibillion-dollar carbon markets as it attempts to balance a rapidly expanding economy with low-carbon growth. The instruments--called renewable energy certificates--will help boost power generation from water, wind, solar and other such clean energy sources in the country. The policy will create a national-level market for buying and selling such certificates, the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission said in a statement late Monday.

A utility or power producer that exceeds its renewable energy targets will be able to sell surplus certificates to utilities that fail to meet their goals. The targets are to be fixed by state-level regulators. Under the policy, a federal-level agency will be created for issuing certificates to renewable energy generators, it said. The value of a certificate will be equivalent to one MW of electricity injected into the grid from renewable sources. These certificates can be traded only in the power exchanges approved by the regulator and within a price range determined by it from time to time, the commission said. "Apart from carbon credits, which are subject to a lot of international protocols and timelines, this [policy] will provide internal support for renewable energy projects within the country," said Vinod Kala, managing director of Emergent Ventures India, an environment consulting company.

India, which currently has an installed generation capacity of about 156 GWs, plans to add about 13 GWs of capacity annually over the next few years to meet the demands of its growing economy. The power sector is the largest contributor to carbon emissions in India, the fourth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, as a majority of the electricity is generated from fossil fuels such as coal. The country's Environment and Power ministries have a roadmap for increasing the proportion of power from renewable sources in an effort to work toward low-carbon growth. "However, renewable energy sources are not evenly spread across different parts of the country," CERC said.

While a higher renewable purchase obligation can be introduced in some states, it isn't possible in states with lesser potential for renewable sources. renewable energy certificates are expected to address this mismatch between the availability of renewable sources and the requirement of the utilities to meet their renewable targets, CERC said. However, Mr. Kala at Emergent Ventures India said certain pending issues must be addressed--including clarity on what kind of penalties will be implemented if distribution companies don't meet their renewable energy targets--in order for the overall policy to be effective.

Energy sector feels the wind in its sails

Weekend Australian
Saturday 16/1/2010 Page: 7

THIS decade, Australia's windfarm industry expects to increase its employment almost 500% as the national renewable energy target, legislated last year, drives rapid development. The escalation of wind energy is one of three waves of change in electricity supply predicted by the Australian Energy Market Operator as it seeks to model national high-voltage transmission needs.

According to AEMO, the renewable target will drive a 450% increase in wind energy while the gas generators simultaneously will enter a golden period. The target scheme runs out of puff in 2020 it has a cap of 45,000 GW hours a year but combined cycle gas plants will become the preferred technology for meeting Australian power demand in the next two decades. Combined cycle gas turbine baseload generation is predicted to increase 10-fold in two decades.

The AEMO model suggests it will be about 2024 before the third technology wave makes its mark with large-scale geothermal development and carbon capture and sequestration processes enabling the coal generators to arrest their decline in Australian power supply. Meanwhile, the ball is with wind developers. Miles George, managing director of Infigen Energy, builders of the first largescale windfarm in NSW, recently told a Senate committee he expects 800 MWs of wind energy to be established each year of this decade.

George, whose Capital windfarm near Bungendore is contracted to sell its output to Sydney Water for the desalination plant due to be commissioned this summer, says a reasonable target long term for the wind sector would be to meet 15 to 20% of national electricity demand. Meanwhile, the Rudd government's RET should drive the wind sector's employment from 1600 people today to 7600 by the end of the decade, according to Clean Energy Council estimates. Overall, the council predicts the renewable energy industry will increase its employment in Australia from 10,370 people today to more than 24,000 in 2020.

The CEC says support for desalination projects by putting zero-emission power into the eastern seaboard grid to offset use of fossil fuels will be an important early factor for the wind industry. Apart from the 141MW committed by Infigen Energy to support Sydney Water, AGLis developing 524 MW of wind farms at Oaklands Hill in Victoria and Hallett in South Australia between now and 2012 for the SA water scheme.

Australia now has 49 wind farms carrying 962 turbines with a capacity of 1668MW. The CEC says there are 6000MW of wind energy projects proposed across Australia. The Australian Bureau of Agricultural Resource Economics sees an even more optimistic outlook for wind energy. In its latest review of electricity generation, ABARE records 10,672MW of wind farms undergoing feasibility studies in addition to 734MW of developments being built.

ABARE has 71 wind farms in its "less advanced projects" category. Fourteen are proposed for NSW, including the giant Silverton project near Broken Hill with a planned capacity of 1000MW, and 30 for Victoria. A further 17 are proposed for SA. Infigen Energy's George foresees a technology change further boosting Australia's wind rush. He told the Senate committee on fuel and energy that a typical windfarm turbine today has a capacity of 2MW and, while 3MW units are being brought in to operation, there are 6MW prototypes being tested. This will enable another substantial decrease in wind energy costs.

Cove gets wind power

Hobart Mercury
Friday 15/1/2010 Page: 13

THE Resource Management and Planning Appeal Tribunal has rejected an appeal by the Hobart City Council against a wind turbine development approved by the Sullivans Cove Waterfront Authority. The council appealed against the authority's decision to approve installation of four 12-kW 11-metre high wind turbines on the roof of the Marine Board Building.

The council claimed the development was out of scale with neighbouring buildings and the general character of the cove, it interfered with the views and vistas within and beyond the cove and the turbines would be individually prominent in contrast with neighbouring buildings. The tribunal found no likely impact could be demonstrated on views and vistas, found the turbines would be in keeping with the character of the cove and said they were not out of scale with neighbouring buildings. Hobart Lord Mayor Rob Valentine said the council had a win when the developer of wind turbines proposed for the ANZ Centre in Elizabeth St Hobart appealed.

The two parties reached an agreement at mediation on redesigned wind turbines. Ald Valentine said their height was reduced from 16.7m to 11m and the design changed. "We got a better outcome for the city, it pays for the council to look at these things critically." The final result was the ANZ building developer substantially modified the proposal so the turbines conformed with the City of Hobart Planning Scheme. Ald Valentine said the council had wanted to make sure its feelings were known about the Marine Board wind turbine proposal.

Where the wind blows

Independent Weekly
Friday 15/1/2010 Page: 8

It is interesting, and ironic, that much of the wind energy we currently have in SA owes its existence to the coal-fired power station at Port Augusta. Australian governments like to talk about all they are doing to reduce Australia's reliance on fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions yet they have never built a major power transmission line to allow development of a sustainable energy resource, whether it be wind, solar or geothermal.

They have built major lines for mining (Olympic Dam) and for coal-fired power stations (Port Augusta). If the high-capacity Port Augusta to Adelaide power lines did not pass through the mid-north, with its high quality wind resources, we would not have the Hallett, Clements Gap, Snowtown, and (under construction) Waterloo Windfarms. No further windfarm development can take place on Eyre or Yorke Peninsulas, where there is a very high-quality wind resource, because of the lack of suitable power transmission lines.

David Clarke, Clare

Wind farm in Antarctica
January 17, 2010

On Saturday, the $7.4-million Ross Island Wind Farm in Antarctica began feeding electricity at full power for the very first time. The windfarm's three 333-kW Enercon E33 wind turbines will provide roughly 11% of the power for the two bases in Antarctica. The largest wind energy plant in Antarctica, able to provide electricity to 500 homes, was inaugurated today in the frozen continent thanks to a joint United States and New Zealand.

Its three huge wind turbines will supply 11% of the energy demand of all scientific research projects of both countries in the Ross Sea coast, said diplomatic sources in New Zealand. The wind energy plant will significantly reduce the emission of gaseous pollutants and, by not using fossil fuel, there will be less risk of potential spills that damage the environment. The wind energy project has cost eleven million dollars and was opened this morning but the turbines are fully operational for a month. Chaired the event New Zealand Foreign Minister, Murray McCully, who said that initiatives like this are necessary to protect "one of the most untouched ecosystems but also more fragile the planet."

The wind energy plant has a capacity of 1 MW, can cut the use of 460 thousand liters of diesel fuel and emit 370 thousand tons less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, according to the New Zealand company Meridian Energy, which has installed wind turbines. Since the work began in November 2008, the intense cold and winds forced the workers to use water to freeze the concrete foundation of each mill, which can withstand winds up to 200 kilometers per hour. The world's southernmost windfarm it is located on Crater Hill, Ross Island, Antarctica. The construction and development of this windfarm will be unique and challenging.

21-Megawatt Solar Power Plant Opens in California
January 17, 2010

(NaturalNews) California-based solar panel producer FirstSolar has opened a 21-MW power plant in Blythe, making it the largest photovoltaic solar energy plant in the country. Utilizing thin film solar cells made out of cadmium telluride, the plant will be able to generate power for about 17,000 southern California homes.

A project that took only three months to construct, the Blythe solar plant is already set to be replicated across the state. In order to spur California to meet its greenhouse gas reduction goals that were put in place by Governor Schwarzenegger, Southern California Edison, a local power company, has agreed to purchase solar energy from FirstSolar's Blythe plant for 20 years.

The thin cell technology used by FirstSolar to produce its panels is the most cost effective in the industry. The technology is so reliable and effective that FirstSolar has been able to sign deals with municipalities around the world to build utility-scale energy plants. Though not as efficient as silicon-based solar panels, the cadmium telluride cells are much more cost effective and seem to hold the most potential for large-scale use.

The company has also increased its MW production over 600% between 2007 and 2008, representing a positive trend towards increased use of solar energy generation at the utility-scale level. The company has been dubbed the "Google" of solar energy production because it has pioneered utility-scale solar energy production and has continued to see steady growth despite economic turmoil.

Plans are already in the works to build several more southern California power stations, one with 250 MW capacity and another other with 300. A 48-MW plant in Nevada was also recently approved. FirstSolar has also signed an agreement with a city in China to build a massive 2,000 MW facility. Half of it is set to be completed and operating by 2014, generating 1,000 MWs of clean, solar energy to its residents.

As far as California is concerned, the state plans to convert at least 33% of its production to renewable energy by 2020. Although solar panels have been around for years, the cost of production was typically very high and efficiency was very low, making them a largely ineffective power source. Companies like FirstSolar are helping to make renewable energy production more viable through advanced solar technology.

Other renewable energy sources being pursued include wind energy and agricultural biomass production.

Micron teams with Australian solar power company
January 19, 2010

BOISE, Idaho - - Micron Technology Inc, has signed a deal with an Australian company to build solar components using new technology that could significantly lower the cost of solar panels. Micron on Thursday announced it had signed the deal with Origin Energy, which also generates and retails energy to about three million customers. The Idaho Statesman reports the two companies signed the agreement in December. Origin Energy has already produced commercial solar panels using a silicon wafer called "sliver" technology in Australia. Origin Energy says the sliver panels are built from cells thinner than most solar cells but are highly efficient.

German Solar Industry Could Face Subsidy Cuts Close To 30% Sources
Jan 15, 2010

FRANKFURT -(Dow Jones)- Germany's photovoltaic-solar energy industry faces a reduction in state subsidies that could be close to 30%, people familiar with the matter said Thursday. Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen next week plans to present a proposal that foresees cutting solar subsidies by a double-digit%age, the people within the industry told Dow Chemical Jones newsletter Energy Daily. The cuts could take effect as early as April, or July at the latest, they said.

There could be further cuts from the beginning of next year if installations of new photovoltaic facilities in 2010 exceed last year's expansion, the people added. Combined with annual cuts for photovoltaic-solar facilities of between 8% and 10% that already have been agree to under existing legislation, the additional cuts could amount to a reduction of 20% to nearly 30%, the people said. Germany subsidizes photovoltaic-solar energy facilities--such as rooftop installations--with so-called feed-in rates that guarantee minimum prices for the electricity they generate.

Market observers estimate that a total photovoltaic-power-generation capacity of up to 3 GWs will be newly installed in 2009. However, final figures for last year's new installations haven't yet been published. In 2008, new photovoltaic installations in Germany added a generation capacity of around 1.5 GW. German economic research institute RWI last year projected that the costs of solar subsidies could reach EUR77 billion by 2013, up to EUR11 billion more than originally expected. The German government has pledged to cut the subsidies to contain the costs.

Friday 22 January 2010

City's new seat of power

Sydney Morning Herald
Thursday 14/1/2010 Page: 7

Sydney Town Hall has been brought into the era of carbon emissions and climate change, with the City of Sydney converting the 121-year-old building into the largest photovoltaic installation in the central business district. The council was yesterday installing 240 cutting-edge solar panels on the roof, capable of producing up to 48 kW hours of energy. That is enough to supply the Town Hall, the council chambers and the council offices next door. "The solar panels demonstrate that new green technology can be incorporated into heritage buildings," the Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, said.

In order to avoid damaging the slate roof of the historic building, the council was forced to install special fixtures first and then use cranes to hoist materials into place. The panels are the first of their kind to be installed in Australia, and feature high efficiency cells that can be manufactured at lower cost. Our plan is to provide 25% of our energy needs from renewable sources and reduce growing demand for power from coal-fired power stations," Cr Moore said.

"Across all our properties we are investing $18 million to improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon dioxide emissions through solar hot water, solar panels, sensor lighting and intelligent control systems that manage energy use as it is needed. Our target is a minimum of 48% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from our properties by 2012." With the installation of the panels Sydney Town Hall joins other municipal headquarters around the world, including in Barcelona, the US state of Oregon and the Hammersmith district of London. solar panels were installed on the roof of Melbourne Town Hall in 2003.

Decision Promised Soon on Cape Cod Wind Farm
January 13, 2010

WASHINGTON - The Obama administration moved a step closer on Wednesday to ending the nearly decade-long conflict over a major wind energy installation off Cape Cod, Mass. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, after meeting with virtually all of the parties to the dispute, said that he intended to decide whether to approve the wind turbine project no later than April. "What I want everyone to understand is that we will bring this process to a conclusion," Mr. Salazar said at a news briefing. He said the drawn-out controversy and repeated challenges were "bad for everyone involved."

The project, known as Cape Wind, is shaping up as a signal test of the Obama administration's commitment to renewable energy projects on public lands and off the nation's shorelines. Cape Wind, first proposed in 2001, would be the country's first major offshore wind energy project, although wind energy developers in Delaware, New Jersey and Rhode Island hope to follow soon.

A coalition of state and local politicians, American Indian tribes, preservationists and Cape Cod business operators oppose the project, saying the 130 wind turbines rising 440 feet above the surface of Nantucket Sound would spoil the ocean view and disrupt submerged Indian burial grounds. Mr. Salazar said he was trying to balance two of his most important missions at the Interior Department: to promote development of renewable energy to address global warming and to preserve the nation's public lands and historic heritage.

Although he gave no explicit clue to his intentions on Cape Wind at Wednesday's briefing, he did say that pushing renewable energy was one of President Obama's top priorities. And his sense of urgency on reaching a decision on Cape Wind appeared to be a sign that he was leaning toward approving it. Mr. Obama has not publicly taken sides in the dispute. The late Senator Edward M. Kennedy, whose family compound in Hyannis Port looks out on the proposed windfarm site, was one of the project's most outspoken opponents.

In a meeting, the coalition opposing the windfarm asked Mr. Salazar on Wednesday to consider relocating the project to a less intrusive part of the sound. State officials who support the project, including Gov. Deval Patrick, rejected the proposed compromise, saying the alternate site has already been considered. Mr. Salazar appeared to support the state officials' position, saying that relocating the project would require a new multiyear permitting process. He said that some of the objections of the tribes and other opponents could be addressed within the existing application.

Opponents said Mr. Salazar could approve the alternate site because it had already been considered in federal permits. Audra Parker, president of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, the principal opposition group, said that the alternate site would produce as much clean energy and have far less impact on tribal and historic sites than the current proposed site.

The project appeared to suffer a major setback last week when the National Park Service declared that Nantucket Sound was eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The decision came in response to a petition from two Massachusetts Indian tribes who said the soaring turbines would thwart their spiritual ritual of greeting the sunrise. But Mr. Salazar can still approve the project after consulting with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, an independent body.

A coalition of New England environmental groups urged Mr. Salazar to give a green light to Cape Wind. "This project will show the country and the world that we can meet the twin objectives of delivering clean, renewable energy while preserving the nation's historical, cultural and natural resources," the groups said in a statement.

Hunt on for carbon storage

The Australian
Tuesday 12/1/2010 Page: 18

CLIMATE: The federal and Victorian governments will start looking for greenhouse gas storage basins in Bass Strait next month, kick-starting up to $6 billion worth of appraisal and development expenditure over the next 15 years. Victoria's Department of Primary Industries plans a seismic survey in February and March of potential storage areas south of the big producing fields in Bass Strait's Gippsland Basin. Seismic surveys involve shooting energy pulses at the sea floor and analysing the returning waves to guess the geology below.

In a report released last month, the Rudd government's Carbon Storage Taskforce identified the Gippsland Basin as the most important of the nation's potential storage areas. The basin is near Victoria's Latrobe Valley home of the nation's dirtiest coal-fired power plants and could also be used to store NSW greenhouse gases. The government wants new storage locations for greenhouse gases, rather than using Bass Strait's depleted oil and gas reservoirs or storage space below them.

Exxon-Mobil does not want to inject carbon dioxide into space below its Bass Strait fields in case it contaminates the oil and gasfields above. The taskforee has estimated the southern Bass Strait fields could take 50 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year for 25 years. If exploration started this year, storage could be ready by 2022, the taskforce chaired by former Woodside Petroleum executive Keith Spence claims.

Private companies are expected to spend most of the $6bn the taskforce says could be spent nationwide on developing a greenhouse gas storage industry between now and 2025. About $2bn each could be spent on exploration, appraisal and development. The taskforee has recommended governments spend $254 million on a "precompetitive" exploration program, such as the one planned by Victoria's Primary Industries Department, which will cost $5m.

Tuesday 19 January 2010

Wind energy's employment boom for S-E tourism hotspot

Adelaide Advertiser
Thursday 14/1/2010 Page: 17

ONE of South Australia's coastal tourism hot spots will be transformed into a hub for wind energy generation within the next two years, resulting in jobs and an economic boom for the region. Two major windfarm developers have locked in key agreements with landowners in and near Robe for billion-dollar projects that will create more than 1000 MW of wind-generated energy, expected to power more than 400,000 homes.

District Council of Robe chief executive Bill Hender said there was potential "for a huge boom to the economy". "It's very early days. It will be 18 months to two years before onsite work begins leading to hundreds of jobs in construction phase and 30-40 permanent jobs," Mr Hender said. Renewables sector investor Macquarie Capital last month agreed to back Robe Wind Pty Ltd's $1 billion, 600 MW project along the WoakWine range between Beachport and Mt. Benson. Robe Wind - a company owned by the 35 farmers on whose land the proposed windfarm is to be constructed - described the support as an important milestone in the delivery of the project.

Infigen Energy also confirmed it had landowner agreements in place for its 400-500MW WoakWine Wind Farm project from Cape Jaffa to Beachport. Infigen Energy has a strong track record of windfarm development in the Limestone Coast region with the Lake Bonney windfarm, which comprises Lake Bonney 1 (80.5MW), Lake Bonney 2 (159MW), and Lake Bonney 3 (39MW). Together, the new projects would potentially rival Australia's largest windfarm development near Broken Hill in NSW, being built by Epuron at a cost of about $2 billion. South Australia currently has the nation's highest installed capacity of wind generation, with nine operating wind farms and 5000MW of proposed projects.

A new wave power plant will be built in the United Kingdom

A joint-venture has been established between Swedish-based Vattenfall and Scottish-based Pelamis Wave Power for the construction of wave energy facilities. Under the first project a 20 MW plant will be built by 2014 off the Shetland Islands. Swedish-based Vattenfall and Scottish-based Pelamis Wave Power announced that they have created a joint-venture (named Aegir) for the construction of wave energy plants. The first project is expected to start operations in 2014 in the eastern Atlantic, off the coast of the Shetlands, with a 20 MW capacity.

The launch of the joint-venture, called Aegir, was announced the same day that Vattenfall's new office in Edinburgh, and the first in Scotland, was officially opened by the First Minister, the Rt Hon Alex Salmond MP, MSP. Aegir has been set up to explore wave power development opportunities in Scottish waters and plans to deploy Pelamis Wave Power's second generation 'P-2' wave energy convertor on the developed site. Aegir is keen to identify and confirm a potential site off the Shetland Islands' west coast and make progress towards installing a project up to 20 MWs in scale. This would make the project a potential candidate for the Saltire Prize, the Scottish Government's marine power innovation award.

Dr Helmar Rendez, the Head of Group Function Strategies at Vattenfall, which incorporates the research and development arm of the European energy company, said: "Vattenfall intends to make electricity clean by 2050 and halve its carbon emissions by 2030; this means we must invest in the green energy technologies of today and tomorrow. "The partnership with Pelamis Wave Power allows us to work on developing a site that will prove very productive when we make wave power a commercial reality. We are pleased to tie-up with Pelamis Wave Power and take this project forward as we have big hopes for the future of wave power and see Scotland as a good place to do this."

Neels Kriek, the new Pelamis Wave Power Chief Executive, said: "We are delighted to be working with Vattenfall on this ground breaking project which we hope will be one of many for our Scottish built P-2 Pelamis Wave Power machine. We also anticipate this project being a leading candidate for the Scottish Government's Saltire Prize for commercially proven wave power technology."

Aegir is working towards installing a first phase, multi-machine array, with an installed capacity of up to 20 MWs (MW). Vattenfall's ambition is for wave power projects to grow to the scale of offshore wind projects and the Aegir project is seen as a key stepping stone to that ambition and the opportunity that exists in the Shetland Isles. The plant will use "Pelamis Wave Power P2" buoys, consisting of semi-submerged cylinders connected by hydraulic rams which generate power when resisting the wave action. Each machine consists of several sections, has a 4-metre diameter and is 150-180 metres long, with a capacity of 750 kW.

Ulf Tisell, manager of Vattenfall's Ocean Energy Program, said that the ocean west of Shetland has very close to ideal conditions that will enable us to extract energy from the waves effectively». Also, following the construction of this first plant using the Pelamis Wave Power technology, other technologies will be considered for further projects «to be developed after 2014 for large-scale capacity». Pelamis Wave Power is headquartered in Leith, Edinburgh. Established in 1998, the company employs ~70 staff and is one of the UK's largest renewable energy technology manufacturing companies.

The company was the first to generate electricity into the UK grid from offshore wave energy in 2004, the first to secure an order for a multiple machine project and the first to operate a wave farm anywhere in the world, in 2008. It is currently building its next generation machine, the P-2, which will be deployed at the European Marine Energy Centre in 2010. Deployed as multiple units in 'wave farms', each Pelamis Wave Power machine can produce sufficient electricity each year to meet the equivalent annual average electricity demand of ~500 UK households.

Magma Energy Reports Successful Soda Lake Geothermal Well Flow Test
January 12, 2010

Magma Energy Corp, reported this week that is has successfully completed flow testing of its Soda Lake geothermal production well 45A-33, which will have the capacity to produce 3 MWs (MW) of net power once a turbine system is installed at the site. The well was drilled in June 2009 and, following a field optimization program, the flow test was completed in December. The recent test demonstrated the well to be capable of 1,200 gallons of sustained flow per minute at 385°F.

The well is in the process of being connected to the Soda Lake facility which was successfully refurbished in September and October, 2009 in preparation for additional production from the well field. The refurbishment program contributed an additional 1 MW of net output to the site. The facility has a nameplate capacity of 23 MW and steady base load power production at 90-95% availability.

"We are extremely pleased with this result from our field optimization program which incorporated an established oil and gas stimulation technique known as deflagration. To the best of our knowledge, this well stimulation technology has never been used before in the geothermal industry. We have now confirmed half of our planned Phase 1 program to increase Soda Lake's gross power capacity from 11 MW to 23 MW and we expect to confirm the remaining capacity by the end of March, 2010," said Andrea Zaradic, Magma's vice president of corporate development.

Experts split on significance of China’s new green energy law
08 January 2010

Renewable energy specialists in China have questioned the significance of a recent amendment to the country's 2006 Renewable Energy Law, saying it will have little, if any, effect on renewable energy companies on the ground. However, others contend that the amendment provides an important framework to help address several issues plaguing the fast-growing sector, and sets the stage for a long-awaited stimulus policy and funding package.

A senior official quoted by state news agency Xinhua on 28 December trumpeted the amendment, passed by China's highest legislative body 26 December, as a contribution to the "global fight against climate change". The Xinhua story emphasised that the amendment requires state-owned grid companies to purchase power from renewable energy producers, but failed to mention that the original 2006 law required the same thing. "I think it's an excellent publicity stunt," said Peter Corne, a Shanghai-based managing director at global law firm Eversheds. "It reminds me of some pop icons that get a second hit years later with the same song."

But Corne added that, beyond PR value, the amendment does contain some substantive changes meant to correct imbalances that have emerged in China's rapidly growing renewables sector. These include inadequacies of the power grid, whereas much as a third of China's 20GW of wind turbines spin unconnected to transmission lines, and the failure of some grid companies to purchase renewable power or provide grid connection as required by the original law. "The main message of this new amendment is that the government is more serious in addressing the problems facing the expansion of renewables," he said.

The amendment, first reviewed last August (see Environmental Finance, September 2009, page 12), is intended to bolster central government oversight, regulation and enforcement of the proportion of renewable energy produced and purchased. Ma Lingjuan, deputy general manager of Beijing-based China Renewable Energy Industries Association (CREIA), said the amendment links renewable energy purchasing targets for grid companies, which already exist in disparate regulations, with fines mentioned in the original law. Those fines have been doubled and subsidies offered to further incentivise compliance.

The amendment also requires grid companies to expand the range of power grids to better transmit electricity from solar and wind resource-rich regions in the northwest to the industrial east coast. Xinhua also touted the amendment's mention of the importance of 'smart grids' in facilitating a larger role for renewables in China's energy structure – quoting a researcher at China's foremost research institute as saying smart grids and renewables should be like "twin brothers".

However, Charles Yonts, Hong-Kong based head solar analyst with brokerage, analysis and advisory services firm CLSA, said that, behind the rhetoric, there is little substance: "They talk about the smart grid, but there's little concrete there. I think, if anything, the amendment is a shot across the bow of the grid companies, a little push to remind them that the law [requiring off-take] is there."

But Changhua Wu, Beijing-based head of Greater China for the Climate Group, an NGO, said that Chinese laws at this level are often vague, offering only a framework to be fleshed out with future regulations. Wu added that a long-awaited policy and funding package, known previously as Beijing's Green Stimulus Package, would be released soon.

"This amendment sets the foundation for the New Energy Development Plan – which is focused much more on the size of the market and investments." said Wu. "But if you don't address the barriers to growth – the infrastructure of the sector – as this amendment does, it doesn't matter how much power you make."

Originally expected as early as last May, the New Energy Development Plan, which Wu said would include plans for nuclear energy, is reported to include amended capacity targets for renewable sectors. "The major content of the plan is to review the targets for renewables – wind, solar, hydro. The exact numbers we don't know, but it's clear that the targets will be increased," added CREIA's Ma.

SA wave energy project still on stream
January 11, 2010

Carnegie Corporation's proposed $400 million wave-energy project at Port MacDonnell near Mt Gambier has not lost ground as a result of receiving funds for its West Australian project, the company says. Carnegie Corporation received the first tranche of a $12.5 million grant from the WA Government last week for its Garden Island project. The grant will be used to support the building of a large commercial prototype for its CETO technology, which uses the movement of buoys anchored on the ocean floor to drive onshore turbines. Chief operating officer Greg Allen said the advancement of the WA project did not kill interest in its South Australian plans.

"The plan has always been based around delivering the West Australian project first, so it hasn't changed,'' he said. "We are in the process of negotiating a specialist to undertake project feasibility work at the site as part of an environmental constraints review. That will then feed into the design side of the project to start looking at the scope and the detailed costings.'' The State Government leased a 17,000ha stretch of seabed to the company for an initial three-year period in February last year to allow it to test the appropriateness of the site for a wave-energy project. Carnegie Corporation has a further three-year option over the site and may be granted a project lease at any time it agrees to proceed.