Saturday 24 July 2010

Sun rises on massive power scheme

Thursday 22/7/2010 Page: 5

UP TO 10 large-scale solar power plants would be built in regional Victoria under a state government scheme to run a quarter of the state on renewable energy by 2020. Promising to make Victoria the "solar capital" of Australia. Premier John Brumby set a target of 5% of the state's electricity coming from large solar plants within 10 years. The plan won the immediate approval of the Australian Greens, with spokeswoman Christine Milne declaring that Mr Brumby was "leaving Julia Gillard in his wake". The target would be met through the nation's first large solar feed-in-tariff - a subsidy that will pay solar companies a premium rate to make their technology competitive with coal, gas and wind power. The target is additional to the national 20% renewable energy target, which is expected to mainly build wind farms.

The government estimates it would increase household electricity bills by $5-$15 a year from 2014, and inject up to $2 billion into the state economy. Mr Brumby said the plan would make the state the nation's leader in renewable energy. The plants would be built in the state's north and west. "We will be producing in Victoria as much solar as will the rest of Australia under the [federal $1.5 billion] solar flagships program", he said. Climate Change Minister Gavin Jennings said the proportion of electricity generated from carbon-intensive brown coal was expected to fall from 93% today to about 60% by 2020.

The plan won praise from the solar industry and environment groups. Senator Milne said the use of a gross feed-in tariff to build solar farms was, "world-leading" and called on federal Labor to take a similar approach. "Premier Brumby is to be congratulated on his decision... although he still has a fair way to go to catch up with the Greens", she said. The solar target is part of the piecemeal release of the state government's climate change white paper, promised before the 2006 election. The government previously announced it would double the state energy-efficiency target and is expected to release a proposal to close a quarter of the Hazelwood coal-fired station - Australia's "dirtiest" power plant - by 2014. The policy paper is due to be released later this month.

Details of yesterday's announcement included:
An expectation it would build between 5 and 10 new plants, including an existing proposal to build a station outside Mildura by 2015. The 154MW proposal - backed by $50 million from the state and $75 million from Canberra - was resurrected by Sydney company Silex after original backers Solar Systems went into administration.
An interim target of generating 500GW-hours - enough power to run a city of 90,000 hones - from largescale solar by 2014.
The establishment of a working group to develop plans for medium-scale solar plants that could be built, for example, on shopping centres.

State opposition energy spokesman Michael O'Brien said Victoria was well placed to develop large-scale solar, but Mr Brumby had left many unanswered questions about how the tariff would work: "Until we see the detail, nobody can have confidence that this will turn out any better than John Brumby's previous solar power promises". The government also released a report by consultants Sinclair Knight Merz that found the renewable energy potential in Victoria could meet its power needs more than eight times over.

Infigen Energy wind farm on track

Adelaide Advertiser
Thursday 22/7/2010 Page: 53

SA WIND farm developer Infigen Energy is working towards getting its 450MW project at WoakWine fully permitted by the end of this year. The group has not yet decided on when the project will begin, but the full environmental assessment is getting close to completion. Infigen Energy development manager Frank Boland has told The Advertiser. "Infigen Energy will (then) move to submit its development application.

Infigen Energy hopes to have the project fully permitted by the end of 2010", Mr Boland said. So far, the project had been progressing well with extensive wind monitoring, which was used to confirm wind speeds and assist in optimising the site layout, continuing for some time, he said. Infigen Energy has a consistent track record of wind farm development in the state's Limestone Coast region. The Lake Bonney wind farm, which comprises Lake Bonney 1 (80.5MW), Lake Bonney 2 (159MW), and Lake Bonney 3 (39MW) was successfully developed, constructed and operated by Infigen Energy.

"The Woakwine project will be beneficial to the local economy, by providing local employment opportunities and rental income for landowners", he said. Infigen Energy has five wind farms across Australia with a total capacity of 508MW. It has already announced plans to significantly expand its renewable energy business through the delivery of projects from its Australian development pipeline, though it retains some US and German assets after failed attempts to sell them. A recent economic feasibility study by a Macquarie Capital-led consortium highlighted the state's wind power capacity could make it the national centre for green energy generation.

Turbines generate some positive street feedback

Hobart Mercury
Wednesday 21/7/2010 Page: 7

THE Marine Board Building's new wind turbines seem to be generating as much talk as electricity. However, most of the feedback is positive. "We've had lots of positive comments", said Rob Manson, director of I Want Energy, the firm responsible for the turbines. "Some have been negative, but everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Most of those people seem to be ill informed".

University students Airy Dart and Brielle Mason, who attend the nearby School of Art, had only good things to say yesterday about the installation of the turbines. "We walk past every day and it's great to look up and see them", Ms Dart said. "It's a wonderful idea". Ms Mason thinks the turbines are a great addition to the city. "I think it's a very economical concept - they are a fantastic initiative", she said. "We should have them everywhere".

But not everyone is admiring the new turbines. Hobart City Council alderman Ron Christie has already registered his disapproval of the turbines in the Mercury's letters section, comparing their installation to the, "circus coming to town". He puts them in the same category as Hobart's other, "Great structural blunders" that include the Zero Davey apartments.

State Architect Peter Poulet said he had reservations about the aesthetic impact of the turbines, but he thought they were a step in the right direction. "It's a great sign of a sustainable future for Tassie", Mr Poulet said. "Sure, there are arguments about the way they look, but the important factor is the initiative of the project. "The good thing about them is that they can be altered, changed or even replaced as we develop better technology. "I think they send all the right messages".

Mr Manson said he was not too concerned about the visual impact of the turbines. "They are designed to be as efficient as possible, which is why they spin vertically rather than horizontally", he said. Passers-by may notice that one turbine spins faster than the others, but Mr Manson said technicians were calibrating the turbines to determine how to maximise their efficiency.

Carbon price caution stifles investment

Sydney Morning Herald
Tuesday 20/7/2010 Page: 5

POWER companies have slashed $10 billion from their spending plans because of growing uncertainty surrounding carbon policy, an industry survey says. According to the Energy Supply Association of Australia, utilities expect their capital expenditure on new power stations in the next five years to be $8.2 billion, down from $18 billion last year.

The industry, which has complained that repeated delays to emissions trading have stalled investment, blamed the fall on carbon policy uncertainty and tighter access to credit. The survey of 31 energy companies comes at a time when utilities are facing growing investment demands to upgrade an ageing network and address environmental concerns. Some industry sources say power companies will struggle to raise enough money from capital markets until a price on carbon has been established.

Besides carbon policy, the association also said the recently passed renewable energy target, which requires 20% of power to come from renewable sources, had put a question mark over whether utilities could pass on higher costs to customers. "Regulatory uncertainty around carbon policy and the effects of the legislated renewable energy target are having substantial effects on the credit quality of carbon-intensive generators", the chief executive of the association. Brad Page, said.

Based on responses collected in the first quarter of this year, the survey found $94.1 billion was needed to refinance existing power assets, down from $97.1 billion in the previous survey. But the report found lenders had imposed "substantial" increases in their margins when lending to the sector, and this was curbing the sector's willingness to invest further. "Despite a slight recovery from the financial downturn experienced in 2008, the current state of financial markets and the uncertainty associated with carbon policy continues to create a situation where access to both debt and equity is severely restricted", it said.

The report came as Australia's largest private generator - UK-listed International Power - said it had resumed merger talks with GDF Suez of France. Under the deal, the utilities would merge their overseas assets. Brokers have said it would make sense for such a merged group to offload its Australian assets, down from $97.1 billion in the previous survey.

Electric cars charge puts a new spin on the circuit at Bathurst

Sydney Morning Herald
Monday 19/7/2010 Page: 7

ELECTRIC cars will cruise into the sacred turf of petrol heads this month, as renewable energy experts converge on Bathurst's Mount Panorama. Seventeen local councils representing western NSW are gathering for a climate change summit under the banner "recharge the region" to co-ordinate plans for a network of recharge points for electric vehicles across the NSW outback, as well as linking Sydney and Canberra. The growl of the V8s will be temporarily replaced by the softer purr of electric engines as low emission vehicles from across Australia converge for a demonstration race on the Mount Panorama circuit from July 29.

"Sustainable transport is incredibly import for regional NSW, and when fuel prices rise it hits the country harder than it does in the city", said the summit organiser, Elisabeth Bastian. The aim is to have a functioning network of recharging stations across much of the state's west by 2015. For now, the cars would still mainly be plugged into the electric grid, although the summit is also examining the feasibility of more renewable energy generation in towns including Bathurst and Orange.

At the moment, recharging from power points is rather slow, so we are trying to turn that into a benefit for tourism", Ms Bastian said. "People can relax and use the time to explore different towns while they hop from point to point. We want to link up with public transport as well, so that people from Sydney can catch a train west and then hire a car when they get there". Rudimentary electric car charging stations already exist in some places around the state, including at some Westfield supermarket car parks in Sydney, but at the moment most are not marked on maps or linked with other stations.

Wednesday 21 July 2010

Turbines turn today

Hobart Mercury
Friday 16/7/2010 Page: 5

THE nation's most powerful vertical wind turbines are due to begin generating electricity in Hobart today, less than a week after wind hampered installation efforts. The Marine Board building on Hobart's waterfront will save more than 10% on its energy bill once four turbines start turning. I Want Energy cofounder Rob Manson said work was expected to begin at 9am today and, if weather permitted, it should be done by 4pm. Motorists can expect delays with Morrison St to be closed between 9am-12.30pm and a section of Franklin Wharf to shut from 12.30pm to 4. Mr Manson said even though strong winds forced workers to down tools on Sunday, delaying the installation, it had been a good outcome. "We've been able to have public open days and people have really loved the chance to get up close to the turbines and ask questions", he said.

Victoria doubles its target for energy efficiency - Power bills 'could be cut by 25%'

Friday 16/7/2010 Page: 3

THE Brumby government has beaten its federal counterparts to the punch in launching an election climate-change policy, expanding an energy-saving scheme to target up to 500,000 small and medium businesses. The doubled Victorian Energy Efficiency Target is promised to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5.4 trillion tonnes a year - roughly equivalent to 1% of national emissions. It requires energy retailers to make savings by encouraging the uptake of efficient technology, including new-generation appliances and lighting, heating and water systems.

The announcement to expand the household scheme to cover business comes as the Gillard government prepares an energy-efficiency policy as it attempts to fill the void left by the shelved emissions trading scheme. Federal cabinet is believed to have considered adopting a national scheme similar to the Victorian model. Premier John Brumby called for the Victorian approach to be adopted, saying it could cut power bills by up to 25%. "I hope this is a policy that is emulated, copied across Australia, because this is the way to go in the household and small business sector", he said. "This is where the focus is going to be over the next two to three years - dragging people's power bills down by using electricity more efficiently".

Mr Brumby said the energy efficiency announcement was the first plank of a "landmark" climate change white paper to be released later this month. He confirmed that future announcements would include a statement about the Hazelwood brown coal power station. The Age last week revealed the state government would seek federal help to shut down a quarter of Hazelwood's generators by 2014. It is expected it would cost hundreds of millions of dollars through compensation to Hazelwood's owner, International Power. Mr Brumby said an announcement about the Latrobe Valley plant was imminent. "Hazelwood is obviously the biggest polluter in Victoria... If you were going to reduce emissions and make an abrupt and significant difference to the level of emissions in Victoria you would obviously need to focus on Hazelwood", he said.

Promised before the 2006 election, the climate change white paper has been delayed amid internal confusion while the state government waited on the design of a national carbon trading scheme. A draft of an associated climate change bill circulated at Spring Street in May included only one new measure that could lead to a cut in emissions. Environment Minister Gavin Jennings promised the draft was out of date and would change.

Mr Brumby yesterday said the white paper would also double a rebate on registering hybrid and electric vehicles to $100. The boosted energy efficiency target, up from 2.7 million tonnes a year, won cautious applause from environment groups, business and energy retailers. Opposition energy spokesman Michael O'Brien said enticing people to become energy efficient was a, "no-brainer", but the existing scheme lacked openness and was potentially vulnerable to rorting.

Renewables market REC'd until 2014
July 16, 2010

A massive pool of renewable energy certificates will limit the impact of Australia's new energy laws until 2014, even as the rules inject a welcome dose of long-term certainty into the market. Continued weakness in the cost of the certificates, used as a partial subsidy for clean but expensive power, may slow investment in clean energy that the industry hopes could reach $20 billion by 2020. renewable energy certificates (RECs) flooded the market last year after a supply spurt generated by small solar household installations, squeezing prices of what is a crucial component of wind developers' profit.

This led to parliament last month passing amendments to the nation's renewable energy target scheme, splitting it into programmes handling small-scale and large-scale investments. The Large-Scale Renewable Energy Target will not offer near-term relief for developers, but should benefit renewable energy companies such as AGL Energy and Origin Energy who have stockpiled cheap certificates. "With the current oversupply of RECs likely to carry through into the LRET scheme, the market will remain firmly in surplus for the next two years", said Macquarie analyst Aimee Kaye, "There won't be sufficient investment in renewables until the REC price is close to $65 per MWh".

Law unlikely to boost prices soon
Australia wants a fifth of its electricity to come from renewable energy by 2020, and is pinning its hopes on the certificates to bolster clean energy investment, which the industry-backed Clean Energy Council estimates could reach as much $20 billion by the target date. Australian law compels wholesale power retailers and some generators to buy the certificates - which represent aMW-hour of electricity from a renewable energy project - from green power providers. Worries about the impact of the REC surplus sent shares of the country's top wind power providers Infigen Energy and Transfield Services Infrastructure down than 10% in the week after June's legal revamp, bringing the falls to more than 40% this year.

REC prices are around $40 aMW hour (MWh), with Macquarie Equity Research estimating a glut of about 12.6 million certificates worth $504 million will accumulate by year's end before tapering down to about 1.5 million by 2014. Analysts see the overhang clearing by 2014 when utilities will need to replenish stocks of the certificates. Some retailers have been stockpiling cheaper RECs to meet obligations under the scheme, but eventually this supply will run out. The changes to the scheme, which take effect from Jan 1, 2011 and bar certificates generated by smaller solar water heaters and household solar installations, will trim the excess.

Gone with the wind
The scheme is expected to lead to an additional 7,000 to 9,000MW of wind power generation on top of about 2,000MW now to meet Australia's renewable energy target of 46,000GW-hours (GWh) by 2020. The bulk of this target must be met from large-scale renewable energy projects. Energy firms Origin Energy and AGL Energy have combined wind resources of 4,000MW in the pipeline - double that of Infigen Energy and Transfield at more than 1,000MW each - they can choose to develop when REC prices recover. Based on current power contracts. AGL Energy and Origin Energy, which bought RECs when prices bottomed near $29 per MWh in 2009, have adequate projects and certificates to meet their obligations under the LRET scheme until 2014.

"Retailers would effectively recover the price of the associated green liabilities, plus a small margin, once the load is ascertained", Bank of America-Merrill Lynch wrote in a note. The bank also expects a large shortfall in supply of the certificates to kick in by 2015, possibly driving prices beyond $65 a MWh and raising the value of some clean energy projects. The sweeping change to the laws is a long-term positive factor as it gives investors in large renewable projects more certainty on investment returns.

The Investor Group on Climate Change, which represents some of Australia's largest investment funds with more than $600 billion under management, sees the revised law as opening up an opportunity to invest in the sector. "Discussions have been going on but investors have been sitting on their money", said Nathan Fabian, the group's chief executive. "These changes mean that investment funds will flow, especially as banks will have the confidence to lend, and that's important as it will give funds confidence to provide equity".

Cornwall's Wave Hub energy project 'is going ahead'
14 July 2010

The £42m Wave Hub project off the coast of Hayle in Cornwall will go ahead as planned. It was feared the scheme could become a victim of the freeze on European funds and the scrapping of the South West Regional Development Agency (RDA). However the RDA said the alternative energy project was approved long before the cuts were announced. The hub is a "socket" on the sea bed which will link wave energy devices directly to the national grid.

Economy boost
The RDA said it is expected to be the world's biggest wave energy test site. The installation, 10 miles (16km) off Hayle, is due to take place within the next month. The yellow steel structure will feed power from wave energy machines to an electricity sub-station in Hayle. The project is expected to start delivering power to the grid next year. An independent economic impact assessment has estimated Wave Hub could create about 1,800 jobs and inject £560m in the UK economy over the next 25 years.

Tuesday 20 July 2010

Battery-boosted Hawaii wind project breaks ground
July 14, 2010

Wind developer First Wind has broken ground on its 30-MW Kahuku wind project in Hawaii. The facility will use an innovative battery-based power management system to store up energy to smooth over the intermittent generation of the project's 12 wind turbines. A ceremony was held yesterday at the site on Oahu's North Shore, where the wind farm will become the only utility-scale wind project on the island and one of the largest in the state. Located in the hills west of Kahuku town, the wind farm should generate enough renewable energy to supply 7,700 local homes with electricity.

Power is being sold to Hawaiian Electric Company under a 20-year power purchase agreement agreed in May. First Wind said the project would create, "immediate" benefits for the local area, with 200 construction jobs supported. Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle, who led the ceremony, said: "The Kahuku Wind Project brings Hawaii another step closer to reducing our state's dependence on imported foreign oil and increasing our energy security".

The project is also to use a special battery storage system to help the wind farm comply with performance standards for the local grid. The battery system will come from Xtreme Power. Inc., and will be the largest of its kind in Hawaii. It will smooth the energy supply from the wind turbines to the grid, providing a certain amount of power when the wind speed drops while also holding power in reserve for times of peak demand.

Texas firm Xtreme Power will supply a 15MVA, 10MW per hour power management system, based on the pilot-scale 1,5MW storage system it has demonstrated at First Wind's operational wind farm on Maui, the 30MW Kaheawa Wind Project. Xtreme Power said its technology had the ability to reduce power variability in wind turbines by ore than 95%, as well as avoiding wind turbine trips and overloads. Carlos Coe, president an CEO of the company, said; "With First Wind, we've proven that our dynamic power management system helps to deliver on the promise of reliable clean energy today".

The Kahuku project is expected to be handed a $117 million loan guarantee from the US Department of Energy, with negotiations near to closure. First Wind, which has its head office in Boston. Massachusettts, said the start of construction was a, "major milestone", but would not have been possible without the promise of a DOE loan guarantee.

Paul Gaynor, the firm's CEO, said: "It is important to acknowledge the vital role that DOE and its Loan Program Office played in advancing this project as the loan guarantee enable us to secure necessary financing to build this innovative wind power project". The Kahuku Wind Project is to use 12, "Liberty" wind turbines, each rated to produce 2.5W of power, supplied by US manufacturer Clipper Windpower Wind. The machines are the largest turbines to be built within North America, with manufacturing taking place at Cedar Rapids. Iowa.

Sustainability group wants geothermal energy policy push
July 14, 2010

A central Victorian green group says targeted policies need to be in place to encourage investment in geothermal energy in Victoria. The State Government has released a map showing Victoria's geothermal sites to try to attract investment in clean energy production. The map identifies areas in the state's north-west as well as around Castlemaine as potential geothermal sources. Mount Alexander Sustainability Group spokesman Dean Bridgfoot says the map's release is a welcome first step. "But we've also got to be totally honest that there won't be investment in these kinds of new technologies unless there's also government policies that back it up", he said. "It's all very good to have an atlas and say there's the resource but if the policies are supporting brown coal to be cheap and dirty then no one's going to invest".

Alice Springs Airport Solar Power Station Project
July/August 2010

The Alice Springs Airport Solar Power Station is the second of five large-scale projects undertaken as part of the Alice Solar City program. The 235kW facility is the first SolFocus concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) facility to be constructed in Australia. The 28 dual axis tracking arrays will provide the airport with approximately 28% of its total electricity requirements.

In areas of high solar resource such as Alice Springs, tracking CPV technology delivers good value for money due to its high power output throughout the day. SolFocus CPV systems are designed to deliver the lowest levelised cost of energy of any solar power-generating systems in regions with high sunlight and low cloud cover.

By optically gathering a large area of sunlight and delivering it onto a small area of high-efficiency solar cell material, the systems deliver high power levels from panels made predominantly from readily available, low-cost materials like glass and aluminium. The small amount of multi-junction solar cells incorporated into the system provides high levels of efficiency in converting light to electricity.

The basic unit of the SolFocus CPV system is a 300 millimetre diameter power unit. Each power unit includes a primary mirror, secondary mirror, non-imaging optical rod and high-efficiency PV cell of approximately 1 square centimetre. A panel is comprised of 20 individual power units, each delivering 15–17 watts of power to the system. The modules are mounted on an aluminium back pan, and are enclosed with a front glass to protect components and facilitate cleaning.

Spain overtakes US with world's biggest solar power station
Tuesday 13 July 2010

With the new La Florida plant, the nation's solar power production is now equivalent to output of a nuclear power station. Spain has opened the world's largest solar power station, meaning that it overtakes the US as the biggest solar generator in the world. The nation's total solar power production is now equivalent to the output of a nuclear power station. Spain is a world leader in renewable energies and has long been a producer of hydro-electricity (only China and the US have built more dams). It also has a highly developed wind power sector which, like solar power, has received generous government subsidies.

The new La Florida solar plant takes Spain's solar output to 432MW, which compares with the US output of 422MW. The plant, at Alvarado. Badajoz, in the west of the country, is a parabolic trough. With this method of collecting solar power, sunlight is reflected off a parabolic mirror on to a fluid-filled tube. The heated liquid is then used to heat steam to run the turbines. The mirror rotates during the day to follow the sun's movement. The solar farm covers 550,000 m² (the size of around 77 football pitches) and produces 50MW of power.

Protermosolar, the association that represents the solar power sector, says that within a year another 600MW will have come on-stream and projects that by 2013 solar capacity will have reached 2,500MW.

The northern, though thinly populated, region of Navarra is already producing 75% of its energy from a range of renewables, including wind, solar, hydro and biomass. Spain's wind farms now produce around 20,000MW of electricity and on one day in November they accounted for 53% of demand. Last year, solar power met 2.8% of demand out a total of 12.9% for all renewables. In March, the government announced a plan to increase the renewable share to 22.7% by 2020, slightly ahead of EU targets.

With an average of 340 days of sunshine a year in Spain, solar is more reliable than wind, and can go a long way towards weaning the country off gas-fired and ageing nuclear power stations. Spain is now the fourth largest manufacturer of solar power technology in the world and both solar and wind power technology exports have become valuable earners in a country with a weak manufacturing.

Council to consider bulk solar power project
Jul 13, 2010

The Tatiara District Council may become the first in south-east South Australia to promote a whole-community approach to solar power production. The council met representatives of the Zen Home Energy company to discuss the possibility that the Tatiara District Council involve itself in the Community Renewable Energy Pilot Program - a move that will be voted on at tonight's meeting. The program has already had a number of South Australian councils sign up to qualify for discounted prices on solar power systems by buying in bulk through the council. Tatiara Mayor Diana Penniment says if successful, the program could lead to solar panels being put on most council-owned buildings. "It is a very exciting program and I think it's something that we can offer the community, which in turn, council will possibly take on board putting solar power on their buildings", she said.

Monday 19 July 2010

Scientists push new energy era

Herald Sun
Thursday 15/7/2010 Page: 70

A PLAN to convert the nation's entire energy sector to renewables has been endorsed by a group of influential engineers and scientists, including miner Rio Tinto's former head scientist Robin Batterham. The 200-page Zero Carbon Australia (ZCA) 2020 report launched last night at University of Melbourne was described by Professor Batterham as "much needed" to shift the climate debate "to focus on energy, security, affordability, export and of course opportunity". A collaboration between the university's Melbourne Energy Institute and the Beyond Zero Emissions group, the plan details how fossil fuelled power plants could be replaced in a decade at a cost of less than 4% of GDP.

An outlay of $370 billion across 10 years would create an infrastructure that gave Australia energy security and yielded fuel savings of $1.6 trillion by 2040 through a reduction in oil imports, according to BZE executive director Matthew Wright. The lynchpin of the plan would be a reliance on existing technologies that are commercially established in Europe, China and the US. They would include wind farms and concentrated solar thermal plants with energy storage capacity to dispense power at night. "With our natural advantage, Australia can and should be positioning itself as a global renewable super power for future prosperity", said Prof Batterham, the nation's onetime chief scientist and president of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering.

The concept is similar to one that German engineering firm Siemens is preparing to link northern Africa's massive solar resources to mainland Europe's electricity grid, according to Sinclair Knight Merz's power systems executive Keith Frearson. "From an engineering perspective, there is nothing startling about the technology described in ZCA... it's just wind turbines, deflecting mirrors and heat exchangers", Mr Frearson told BusinessDaily. "I don't believe it is necessarily a perfect product, but the plan shows what could be done and is worthy of people's attention", he said.

Mr Frearson, who reviewed the report's transmission aspects, said the cost of upgrading and building new electricity networks was expensive at $100 billion, but not dissimilar to the estimates of works the Australian Energy Market Operator has said are required over the next few years. "To put the ZCA cost into context, it is not an extravagant amount of money when you consider the Government's $40 billion national broadband program or that we were going to spend $300 billion over a decade on defence", Mr Frearson said.

Solar scheme back

Herald Sun
Thursday 15/7/2010 Page: 2

THE Federal Government has fired up a solar scheme that had been on hold - just in time for the election. The $420 million scheme gives grants of up to $50,000 to schools for solar panels, hot water heaters and water tanks. It was abruptly suspended in October because the Government ran out of money after a flood of applications. Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said yesterday the scheme would start up again, with applications to close on August 20".This program has been highly successful as it gives school students first-hand experience in renewable energy, and helps students to become more energy and water-wise", Senator Wong said. But Opposition climate spokesman Greg Hunt accused the Federal Government of "trickery" aimed at the coming election, expected to be called within weeks. "Having suspended (the program) last year they can't go around now congratulating themselves for starting it again on the eve of an election", he said.

Energy ratings to be mandatory

Wednesday 14/7/2010 Page: 9

A BIG change in the way commercial buildings are sold or leased will occur from October when mandatory disclosure of a building's energy efficiency will be phased in. The first year will be a transitional period, with full disclosure mandatory from October next year. Under the legislation, a valid base building National Australian Built Environment Rating System energy rating will be required during the transitional period. Once the transitional period is finished, a full Building Energy Efficiency Certificate will be needed. Where a base building rating cannot be achieved, a whole of building rating will be required.

Jones Lang LaSalle's Victorian managing director, Andrew Wood, said acting now was critical to ensure compliance with the scheme, and to protect and enhance a building's value and appeal. An important note for building owners and occupiers is that NABERS is a retrospective rating", he said. "To make disclosures in the second half of this year, you will require data from the latter part of 2009, as NABERS energy ratings require 12 months of continuous historical data including energy use, floor space surveys, and lease information". After the transitional period, a full BEEC must be disclosed, and registered.

The BEEC will have three components:
  • An energy efficiency rating - a base building NABERS energy rating, or where this cannot be achieved, a whole-of-building rating.
  • Tenancy lighting register. Accredited assessors will benchmark existing tenancy lighting against best practice.
  • Energy efficiency guidance. This must include general advice to building owners/tenants on common energy efficiency opportunities in commercial office buildings.

This is not tailored to the individual building and will not be an energy audit. Mr Wood said the aim of the scheme was to ensure that credible energy efficiency information was given to prospective purchasers and lessees of large commercial office space of more than 2000 m². To sleet this aim, building owners or tenants are required to disclose energy efficiency performance information when they sell, lease or sublease relevant office space. Mr Wood said failure to comply would incur severe penalties.

The Property Council of Australia is pushing for accelerated depreciation as the best way to help industry pay for building upgrades. Studies show that the payback period for investing in more energy efficient technologies is more than 15 years. The council estimates that hundreds of millions of dollars will be required to refurbish Australia's 330 million m² of commercial buildings, most of which are more than 25 years old.

The cleantech bubble blowout

Business Spectator 
Monday July 12, 2010
Page: 1

Australia's first cleantech bubble has well and truly burst. The geothermal energy industry has lost practically all support from the investment community, and share prices are just a fraction of what they were just a year or two ago. Hundreds of millions in market value has been wiped from the board. In the history of market bubbles, this event might have passed unlamented. But geothermal energy is not a mere passing fad, or a cool iPhone app - it forms a crucial part of the government's renewable energy strategy, and is supposed to be the centre of $15 billion of investment over the next decade.

As things currently stand, that looks impossible, and the government, in danger of another embarrassing debacle in its renewable energy policy, is under increasing pressure to take action to help de-risk the sector. Cleantech and renewable energy investments as a whole are in a sorry state in this country. The 75-company Australian Cleantech Index, a basket of renewable, environmental, waste and biofuel stocks with a combined market value of $10 billion, slumped 32% in fiscal 2010, compared to an 11.8% gain for the ASX200 and a 10.5% gain for the ASX Small Ords.

Cleantech Australia managing director John O'Brien blames "weak and inconsistent political leadership" on environmental issues for this fall. "The story of environmental investments in Australia is a depressing one compared to global cleantech stock performance", he says. The geothermal index was the weakest component, losing 57% in the last 12 months, following a 34% loss the year before. Even the two market leaders, GeoDynamics and Petratherm, who share $153 million in government grants between them - if they can advance their projects far enough - have slumped by two-thirds in the last six months.

Yet, according to the federal government's own estimates, geothermal energy could provide more than one quarter of 41,000GW hours required to meet its 20% renewable energy target. And the government's own Energy Resource Assessment rates geothermal as the likely cheapest and cleanest form of baseload energy (including "clean" coal and nuclear) by 2030. But in its current state, the industry fears it will be unable to deliver. It simply doesn't have the support of the market to raise funds for the relatively expensive task of drilling.

Insiders in the industry say it is difficult to get investors on board because they cannot yet see the business case for the technology. The lack of a carbon price has not helped, nor has the uncertainty surrounding the renewable energy target, weak global equity markets and, most recently, the withdrawal of the exploration rebate as a result of the compromise over the mining tax. There have also been set-backs at some of the few wells that have been drilled, most notably the blow-out at GeoDynamics' project in the Cooper Basin and the uncertain results from the Panax Geothermal well at its Penola project.

Geothermal is not a new power source. It has been exploited for more than 100 years, there's 10,000 megawatts of capacity already installed around the world and there are predictions of rapid growth across the world. Australia's resources, 1% of which could power the country 26,000 times over, according to Geoscience Austraia, lie deeper than the rest of the world and pose unique challenges because of that. The industry recognises that there will be setbacks in certain developments, but rather than focusing assistance on a handful of projects and putting all eggs in one basket, there needs to be broader support from the government.

For a start, this would encourage more rigs to be made available across all states for drilling - right now there is an interminable queue for the few available, and would increase the chance of success that would create the necessary trigger for large scale investment in the sector, and expand targets - industrial, heating, and energy. The industry estimates around $500 million is needed - much less, it argues, than has been promised to the large scale solar and carbon capture and storage sectors. Like other renewable sectors, it would also favour broader based mechanisms such as specific feed in tariffs, tax credits, or loan guarantees - a mixture of which is available in almost every other industrial nation, but has not so far been countenanced in Australia.