Friday 23 April 2010

Solahart reassures NSW homeowners

Daily Telegraph
Saturday 17/4/2010 Page: 12
Solahart has moved to reassure NSW homeowners that the Federal Government's $1000 solar hot-water rebate for the replacement of an electric hot-water system is still available under the new Renewable Energy Bonus Scheme despite the home insulation program being put on hold. Solahart's national manager Stephen Cranch says Solahart is pleased the Federal Government is continuing its commitment to assist homeowners.

"Right now, NSW homeowners can still get $1300 back through federal and state government schemes when replacing an electric storage water heater with an environmentally friendly solar water heater," he says "These rebates are on top of the renewable energy certificates, which are currently worth over 51000 for a typical Solahart 300-litre system"

Demonstrating the growing demand for residential land from Penrith residents and builders, the first 33 lots at Delfin Lend Lease's new Jordan Springs community have been sold "off the plan" in less than two weeks. Another 18 lots have been sold to builders taking part in the community's first display village. Jordan Springs at Penrith is a 230ha community that will feature up to 2450 homes for 6500 residents upon completion The community will also include a village centre with specialty shops, an education precinct, sports fields, community resource hub with library and two lakes.

The new 5500 million master-planned community is located 5km from Penriths city centre on The Northern Rd. The strong interest in Jordan Springs stems from rising demand for land in the region and from familiarity with the work Delfin had done at the nearby Ropes Crossing community.

Climate change programs lack credibility: Audit

Sydney Morning Herald
Wednesday 21/4/2010 Page: 6

THE federal government could provide "no documentation" on how it assessed the $4.45 billion "clean energy initiative" announced in last year's budget, according to an audit report detailing a litany of failures in both Howard and Rudd government greenhouse programs. "There was no documentation held by the department relating to advice on the costs and benefits of the proposal and the management of risks associated with implementing the program," the audit found. In another report the Audit Office reveals that federal and state governments have revised down by 15% the amount of greenhouse gas abatement their policies will achieve by 2012.

A spokesman for the Resources Minister, Martin Ferguson, whose department administers the clean energy initiative, said, "The department developed its policy advice using a large body of pre-existing documentation on carbon capture and storage"the technology for which more than half the clean energy money is earmarked.

The harsh assessment of Australia's climate change programs comes as a meeting of ministers from the world's major green house gas emitters failed to agree how global climate talks should proceed after the failure of last year's UN meeting in Copenhagen, and down played the chances of reaching a deal at this year's talks in Mexico.

The Climate Change Minister, Penny Wong, said she believed the Copenhagen accord - the political agreement thrashed out in the Danish capital last December - was "the best international consensus to date and the key to getting international action' on climate change". 'We need to do a lot more than throw a few grants around.'

But the Major Economies Forum meeting she has been attending in Washington was downbeat and the US climate envoy, Todd Stern, said afterwards that agreement in Mexico in December might not be possible. The audit report was also scathing about the greenhouse gas abatement program set up under the Howard government and continued in the early years of the Rudd government: a competitive grants program similar to Tony Abbott's planned "direct action" Climate change scheme. A previous audit had criticised the firs! two rounds of the scheme, but yesterday's report found the third round was not any better.

The three projects funded were "technically ineligible" because they did not meet the criteria, only one produced any greenhouse abatement at all, and even that project only reduced emissions by a third of the amount it had promised. The Greens senator Christine Milne said the report "should give Tony Abbott and [the opposition climate spokesman] Greg Hunt pause for thought". "Clearly the approach they have taken is not an effective or efficient way of delivering emissions cuts. We know we need to do a lot more than throw a few grants around if we are to stimulate the huge growth in green technologies we need," she said.

The report also criticised the original rebate scheme for solar roof panels, saying it achieved greenhouse gas abatement at a cost of about $447 each tonne of carbon, compared with the estimated costs ill the early years of an emissions trading scheme of about $20 or $30 a tonne. It also found that the impact of federal and state government rneasures had caused their greenhouse gas abatement impact to be revised down by 15% over the past two years.

Lib climate schemes 'costly, inefficient'

Wednesday 21/4/2010 Page: 2

KEY Howard-era climate change schemes worth more than $1.5 billion have failed to deliver promised cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and have proved massively expensive. In one notable case, a scheme similar to the "direct action" climate policy of Opposition Leader Tony Abbott achieved only 30% of the expected cut. An Auditor-General's examination of five climate schemes based on grants and rebates found some performed poorly and most lacked clear goals. The programs continued under the Rudd government, but funding rounds have finished.

The report renewed calls for an emissions trading scheme as a cheaper and more effective way to reduce CO2 than government handouts. It found emissions cuts from a solar panel rebate scheme backed by both major parties cost up to 20 times more than reductions from an emissions scheme: $447 for every tonne of CO2 compared with an expected $20-$30. Oversubscription to the program - initially worth $4000, later increased to $8000 - blew out the budget from $286 million to an estimated $1.053 billion. It was cancelled abruptly in June 2009, after prompting substantial growth in the uptake of renewable energy.

The $400 million "greenhouse gas abatement program", introduced in 1999 to fund projects that either cut or offset emissions, reduced CO2 emissions by just 15.5 million tonnes before being abolished. Its target was a cut of 51.5 million tonnes. The assessment process for the program was found to be inadequate. No project approved in its final round met the selection criteria of large-scale cuts at low cost. Greens climate change spokeswoman Christine Milne said the criticism of the greenhouse gas abatement program showed the flaws in the opposition's current policy. "Clearly the approach they have taken is not an effective or efficient way of delivering emissions cuts," she said.

An opposition spokeswoman said its policy was closer in design to a scheme used in New South Wales than the Howard era policy and included a much broader range of measures, including boosting the amount of carbon stored in soil and cleaning up power stations. The Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency said several of the programs had concluded, but it would consider the report's recommendations in relation to others.

Thursday 22 April 2010

ANZ centre goes green on top, giving it smarter power, heating and cooling

Tuesday 20/4/2010 Page: 33

ANZ Bank has invested nearly $9 million in smarter power generation technologies at its new Melbourne office, where a single plant now provides electricity, heating and cooling. The 320m² plant, on the roof of ANZ Centre in Docklands, is part of the bank's $35m investment into making the office as environmentally friendly as possible.

ANZ head of workplace development Agnieszka Aitken said the trigeneration plant and related green technologies developed by Bovis Lend Lease fulfilled a plan first set out in late 2006. natural gas turbines generate electricity and heat is produced as a byproduct. The waste heat goes through an absorption chiller, which converts it into "free" cooling. ANZ says the trigen system has four reciprocating engines that run on natural gas and produce about 36% of peak electricity demand for the base building.

This removes the need to fully tap into Victoria's electricity grid. Other energy efficiency and recycling efforts at ANZ include roof mounted solar cells and wind turbines for renewable energy, and a system where employees need to swipe their staff card to collect printouts, saving energy and paper, Ms Aitken said. Last month, National Australia Bank said it expected to cut its annual power bill by almost $1 million by installing a trigen plant at its main data centre in Melbourne.

New Projects Slow To Get Started

Monday 19/4/2010 Page: 26

AUSTRALIA'S environmental markets may well have surged in recent months, but this is yet to translate into m any of the new projects they are designed to finance. The price of renewable energy certificates has jumped to a recent high of $48, and closed last week around $46, nearly 60% above the lows reached last year as RECs from solar hot water heaters flooded the market. The price has recovered after the federal government flagged changes to the renewable energy target (RET), fixing the price of RECs for small-scale installations, but keeping them separate from the main market for utility-scale projects.

But developers are still unwilling to commit themselves to projects until the final legislation is seen and passed, and analysts are now concerned that the legislation may be held up by a packed budget session, the healthcare package, possible Henry tax review legislation, and the election. The upshot might be that the government has precious little to show for its efforts in renewable technology by the time the next election comes around.

Almost all the developments announced in the past two years have been driven by state-based desalination plants. Deutsche Bank noted last week that only two the 206 MW Collgar wind farm and the 27MW Racecourse Mill bagasse co-generation plant had reached financial close this year thanks to the RET.

Wind farm developers, particularly those independent of the major electricity retailers, will rely on high REC prices to generate a suitable return for capital invested, particularly in the absence of a carbon price. However, it was interesting to see industry fund REST and UBS Asset Management buy Collgar before it was even built. The investment is the first in the renewable sector for either firm.

There is still a big surplus of RECs but the price is being supported by the fact that in the long term, there may not be enough developments built to meet demand, a situation that would force energy retailers to pay a non-deductable penalty price of $ 65, effectively putting a relatively high floor price on the certificates. Analysts say there is also a perception that having intervened once to rescue a flailing REC price, the government would be prepared to do so again.

Integral, AEMO may face litigation over Jackgreen

Monday 19/4/2010 Page: 3

Integral Energy and the Australian Energy Market Operator could face legal action over their role in the collapse of renewable energy company Jackgreen Energy. Jackgreen Energy, which was Australia's largest, specialist renewable retailer, toppled into voluntary administration in December after it failed to pay a $500,000 bill to the New South Wales government-owned Integral Energy. At the time the company said it was squeezed out of business by its bigger rival, which took most of its customers soon after the corporate paramedics were appointed.

Now its administrator, PKF, is mulling possible actions against state-owned power companies and AEMO, which suspended Jackgreen Energys power retail licence soon after administrators took charge. In a report to creditors of Jackgreen Energy International, a wholly owned subsidiary of the listed company, PKF recommended creditors put the company into liquidation at a meeting this week. This could pave the way for potential action against Integral, which is estimated to have gained 15,000 of Jackgreen Energys customers.

According to industry rules of thumb, acquiring Jackgreen Energy's customers would have been worth $10 million to $17 million to the government-owned retailer, which is for sale this year. The report estimated that trade creditors, which include Origin Energy and AGL Energy, will receive between 0.54¢ and 3.6¢ in the dollar. Most of its 100 staff have been sacked, and shares in the group are effectively worthless. In the concentrated industry of power retailing, Jackgreen Energy's collapse highlights the difficulties of small players trying to salvage value once they are in financial stress.

Administrators were required to move all Jackgreen Energy's customers to a rival because of restrictions to ensure power supply was unthreatened. This destroyed nearly all the value in the business. Administrator Atle Crowe-Maxwell said: "In my opinion there's a conflict between the Corporations Act and National Electricity Market Management Company rules, which don't allow for a company similar to Jackgreen Energy to appoint an administrator for the purpose of restructuring the company or maximising the chances of staying in existence." Separately, administrators said the listed parent company, Jackgreen Energy Limited, might have traded while insolvent from May last year until December.

Six-star housing standard

Adelaide Advertiser
Monday 19/4/2010 Page: 5

ALL new homes in South Australia must have a six-star energy efficiency rating from September 1, to improve environmental sustainability. A minimum five-star energy rating for all new homes built in SA has been in force since 2006. Energy efficiency can be improved through better house design, such as taking advantage of natural light and shade, and insulating walls and ceilings. Urban Development and Planning Minister Paul Holloway said the new requirement would help residents reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and cut running costs for home owners. He said a six-star rating was relatively easy to achieve at minimal cost.

Tuesday 20 April 2010

Ingenero sells sunshine to the Sunny Coast

Courier Mail
Friday 16/4/2010 Page: 46

A QUEENSLAND solar company is providing clean energy alternatives across Australia. Brisbane-based Ingenero has helped more than 300 Queensland schools generate their own electricity and has installed solar power to 1000 roofs on the Sunshine Coast. The company has recently installed solar power systems on the roofs of Woolworths petrol stations that feed energy into the ACT power grid. Chief executive officer Steve McRae is one of the founders of Ingenero and says that while Australia has great resources of solar energy, the marketplace is still underdeveloped.

"Even though solar has been around for a long time, people have not always considered it to be important," Mr McRae says. "However, that sentiment is changing and will continue to change due to the increasing prices of black electricity and environmental impact surrounding all that." He says government rebates have helped encourage residential customers to switch to solar. "Ingenero entered the marketplace over two years ago, originally in the commercial and industrial space, but a little over 12 months ago we broadened into the residential marketplace, which now makes up the majority of our customers."

Mr McRae says the market for residential and commercial solar energy systems is strong. "Certainly the Government reducing support for solar hot water had slowed the market down," he says. "However, the good news is that the Queensland Government has announced a state government rebate of $600 in addition to the Federal Government's $1000, which has taken the market up to what it was previously."

The recent overhaul of the Federal Government's Building and Education Revolution program has also had no impact as Ingenero is installing solar systems to existing schools, not new structures. Mr McRae credits the company's success to a strong management team and capital to invest in the business. "We were able to build a solar systems integration laboratory at Boonah, where we could bring products in from overseas and test them in an Australian environment," he says.

This testing laboratory is also available to students as part of a research agreement with the University of Queensland. Mr McRae warns people wanting to switch to solar to do their research to get the best deal. "There's currently a lot of noise in the solar industry so people considering solar should make sure that they compare the facts and the technology with an economic point of view," he says. "There's a certain level of education that needs to happen in the marketplace in general so people feel comfortable with the technology and., the economics surrounding it."

So why switch to solar? Apart from doing your bit for the environment, it can earn you money, as households are plugged into the energy grid. In Queensland, if your household produces excess energy (measured in kW hours) to what it uses, you can see a credit on your electricity bill. Finance plans with some solar energy suppliers ensure you earn money from day one without paying upfront charges for installations. Rebates are available and the Federal Government says it plans to improve subsidies to householders for solar power systems and solar hot water from January 1 next year.

Solar parity by 2015

Courier Mail
Friday 16/4/2010 Page: 46

A SOLAR power plant developer investigating sites in Queensland says solar electricity generation costs could be similar to coal-fired power costs within five years. NSW-based Silex Systems recently completed its purchase of the assets and technology of Melbourne-based Solar Systems Group. SSG collapsed last year, taking with it plans to use Australian technology to build one of the world's largest and most efficient solar power stations - a 100-MW plant near Mildura in Victoria.

Silex Systems chief executive Michael Goldsworthy said yesterday that the company aimed to start building the Mildura plant next year and had separately lodged an application for federal funding for a solar plant of up to 180MW as part of the $1.5 billion Solar Flagships Program. "We've looked at sites in Queensland, NSW and Victoria and, hopefully, we'll make the candidate short-list and then get into the detail of site selection," Dr Goldsworthy said.

"No one could ignore the potential of a big solar installation in Queensland. It's the Sunshine State." Many governments are moving to slash planet-warming greenhouse gases from their electricity sector but need to provide policy support to help emerging, clean technologies compete against cheaper coal fired power until costs narrow. But Dr Goldsworthy said solar production costs were falling rapidly, largely as silicon wafer costs fell and efficiencies rose.

"Short-term government incentive is extremely important to allow the industry to gain the economies of scale and reduce costs down to grid parity," he said. "But the way it's tracking at the moment, you could reach grid parity in the cost between solar and baseload coal in the next few years, certainly within five years." A relative lack of government incentives for solar power in Australia had meant technology developers had struggled, while European, US and Asian solar companies had flourished under strong government policy settings.

Solar panel factory sees the sun again

Sydney Morning Herald
Wednesday 14/4/2010 Page: 8

THE biggest solar-panel factory in the southern hemisphere is to open in Sydney this morning - after it was rescued by a nuclear energy research company. The Olympic Park plant will produce up to 10,000 rooftop solar panel systems a year, with the potential to make many more, filling more than 10% of Australia's demand for solar panels. SilexSolar, a subsidiary of the Australian uranium enrichment group Silex Systems, bought the plant cheaply from BP Solar last year after the latter decided to obtain its solar panels from China.

The revival is a boost for the Australian industry, which has been plagued by a lack of investment compared with China, the US, Spain and Germany. But the purchase leaves households interested in buying solar panels with a dilemma: by buying Australian-made panels, they are indirectly investing in nuclear energy as well. "Solar and nuclear energy are a great fit," the chief executive of Silex Systems, Michael Goldsworthy, said. "Looking down the barrel of climate change and global warming, we need to develop alternative electricity sources."

The plant will employ about 100 people by the end of the year. This is still short of the 200 skilled staff who worked at the plant when it was owned by BP Solar. But SilexSolar plans to make panels that convert a higher proportion of sunlight to stored energy. "We're looking at producing about 15 MWs of panels per year but we can expand that to 50 MWs," Dr Goldsworthy said.

The demand for rooftop panels has surged since 2006 when national solar rebates came into force, supplemented by state subsidies, including the solar tariff introduced this year in NSW. SilexSolar's acquisition of BP Solar's assets followed the takeover of Australian solar energy pioneer Ausra by the world's largest nuclear power company, Areva. The Premier, Kristina Keneally, said the development made Sydney the nation's solar power hub. The Australian PV Association said the revival of the factory was welcome addition to the Australian industry.

Monday 19 April 2010

Geodynamics delays Cooper Basin decision

Adelaide Advertiser
Wednesday 14/4/2010 Page: 34

GeoDynamics will make a final investment decision on a proposed $300 million, 25 MW geothermal demonstration plant in the Cooper Basin by early 2013 - two years later than previously stated. The delay is related to a production well breach incident in April last year, which caused the postponement of commissioning of its 1MW pilot plant at Innamincka.

The decision to invest will mean that GeoDynamics "is confident the geothermal resource is proven, the technical aspects of production are well defined, and the significant investment of approximately $300 million required to construct a commercial-sized power plant will be money well spent," the company said yesterday. "It (the delay) is essentially a result of not only the incident, but the learnings we have taken from it as well," GeoDynamics managing director Gerry Grove-White said. "I feel confident about the program. We now have a clear understanding of issues we are finding the answers to.., and we have a strategic advantage to other geothermal players," he said.

The firm, with joint venture partner Origin Energy, yesterday outlined a new forward work program with updated timelines for commissioning of the pilot plant and decision on the demonstration plant. The firm plans to harness heat in granites underground to produce steam to drive turbines and has completed a proof of concept stage. The 25 MW plant has already won $90 million in funding under the Federal Government's Renewable Energy Demonstration Program, and is a step towards GeoDynamics' rollout of plants to generate 500MW by 2020. The 1MW plant is on track to demonstrate the first power produced from an enhanced geothermal system in Australia by 2012.

Before this happens however, two new wells - Habanero 4 and Habanero 5 - will be drilled to power the plant. A second drill rig, Rig 200, has been purchased by the company to drill the new wells and will be commissioned before the end of the year. An underground heat exchanger will also be created at Jalokia 1, located 9kms from Habanero, to prove underground reservoirs can be created across the company's tenement areas. "The successful completion of this work program will provide us with two potential sites to build the commercial demonstration plant, each site having demonstrated flow testing from multi-level heat exchangers within the granite," Mr Grove-White said.

Farmers turn green over mine

Sunday Mail Brisbane
Sunday 11/4/2010 Page: 35

FARMERS at war with a proposed open-cut coal mine will fight it by offering their land for wind and solar farms. In what they hope will be a model for other mining-affected communities, the people of Felton, 30km southwest of Toowoomba, have hired a consultant to investigate their green energy potential. The community will use the report to lobby the State Government to reject Ambre Energy's coal mine in favour of renewables. Friends of Felton spokesman Rob McCreath said farmers would welcome wind turbines and solar farms on their land.

"Faced with the prospect of a massive dirty open-cut mine we'd much rather have wind and solar," he said. Green energy consultant Trevor Berrill estimated 48 turbines could share Felton Valley's ridges with grazing cattle, and another 10sq km of land could host large solar thermal infrastructure, together producing enough green energy to power 160,000 homes. Mr Berrill said this community model could be extended throughout Queensland and negate the need to dig new coal mines. He said green energy was economical to produce if the carbon costs of coal energy were taken into proper account.

Offshore wind farms should be linked, researchers say

Summaries - Australian Financial Review
Tuesday 13/4/2010 Page: 5

American academics have put forward a plan to link new wind farms on the United States' East Coast, as electricity authorities grapple with the issue of obtaining useful power from wind energy. University of Delaware researchers suggest making wind energy more viable by linking the wind farms. A professor at the university's College of Earth, Ocean and the Environment in Newark, Delaware, Willet Kempton, says linking wind farms would reduce power fluctuations when the wind stops in one area.

The World Wind Energy Association says the US had the most MWs of wind power capacity in 2009 at 35,139, while the US has no offshore wind farms. To reach an Energy Department target of obtaining 20% of US power from wind by 2003, the US will need about 300 GWs, with 54 GWs from offshore turbines, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

Dialogue becomes a possibility with smart networks

Summaries - Australian Financial ReviewI
Tuesday 13/4/2010 Page: 4

The traditional approach to reading an electricity meter was to have an employee of a distribution network read meters at homes. However, smart meters can automatically acquire such information and identify issues before the consumer even notices. General Electric digital energy vice-president Bob Gilligan, who last month attended the National Smart Grids Forum in Sydney, says that smart grids allow users to sell their own electricity, which can be generated by wind or photovoltaic grids. Portuguese state-owned holding company Energias de Portugal is implementing a pilot grid project.

According to a case study by Logica, 50,000 energy boxes will be installed by the end of March. The head of the roll-out, Jose Antunes, is aware that Portugal has set a renewable energy target of 31% by 2020. Energy Networks Association chief executive Andrew Blyth says that Australia, which has set an RET of 20% by 2020, is neither behind nor ahead of other countries regarding to the so-called "digitisation of energy."

Smart network groups hope that Australia's national broadband network will reach some sort of synergy with their services. The head of global consulting services in Asia, Australia and Japan for Software AG, Steve Keys, says that smart networks can provide updates once in every 30 minutes. The Government last year called for tenders for a $100 million initiative called Smart Grid, Smart City.